A-Z of indigenous Ghanaian football terminology

Goal provides a compilation of jargons and phrases that have always defined the Ghanaian football in ways that foreign terminology never satisfactorily would

By Nana Frimpong

Various footballing cultures possess their own catalogue of terms coined by their respective locals to define features of the sport as they know it. One might, for instance, think of the 'shibobo', 'trivela', and 'tiki-taka' as used in the contexts of Mozambican, Italian and Spanish football respectively.

In this regard, Ghana is no exception, as it also boasts its own peculiar 'football language'. For those not very acquainted with Ghanaian football, the experience of watching a match among a crowd at a stadium or behind TV screens could prove quite confounding, as natively Ghanaian spectators use a range of local vocabulary/slang to describe happenings in a game, be it a brilliant show of skill or a refereeing decision gone horribly wrong.

To help such ones familiarise themselves with the intricacies of Ghanaian football, as many of these jargons (mostly in the vernacular) as Goal could recall have been compiled and explained below. Since this list is not by any means comprehensive, do share with us in the 'Comments' section further down the page those words and phrases we might have missed.


: Derogatory terms used in reference to opportunistic players, mostly strikers, who tend to situate themselves behind opposition backlines in a quest for a loose ball to convert. Also known as the 'Standing Nine'.

Ampaho: A miskick

Away: A term chanted amidst claps by local football fans when an opposing player prepares to take a penalty kick in the course of regular play or during a shoot-out.
Abaaten: Slick passing by players on a team that requires opposing players to race after the ball in attempts to arrest its movement. Usually employed to round off games whose outcomes are irreversibly sealed, often in the final minutes.

Awam: A term that describes any controversial refereeing decision that goes contrary to popular judgment. To illustrate, an 'Awam penalty' is a penalty that isn't beyond all reasonable doubt.


Ball-gbee: A compound word that marries the English 'ball' with 'gbee', which translates from the local Ga dialect as 'dog'. Thus, a 'ball-dog', to wit, is one who loves to hog possession or one in the neighbourhood who is regularly seen playing football.


Colts: Colts, often mispronounced as 'Coast(s)', describes budding footballers usually below their mid-teens, perhaps in reference to the young of a horse. Colts football could also be termed grassroots football, and remains arguably the most crucial tier of the Ghanaian football grooming system, with almost all of the nation's top stars having been engaged at that level at some point during their formative years. Colt football clubs abound in the country.


Dangbeleshie/Dangbeeshie/Dangbeley: A scissor-kick, especially one brilliantly executed.


Frefrekobo: A makeshift team called up for an impromptu football match, mostly comprised of players lacking real quality and/or adequate preparation.


Gutter-to-Gutter: A game of five-aside street football with the goalposts demarcated by two gutters that run parallel. The ball in this case is advisably any easily disposable round-shaped object, be it a piece of drained orange or a stuffed sock. Gutter-to-gutter is quite popular across the country.

Gajo: The indigenous name for what is known elsewhere as the Elastico (alternatively as La Culebrita, or the Flip-Flap), a dribbling move/feint used to fool a defensive player into thinking the offensive player, in possession of the ball, is going to move in a direction contrary to that which he really intends to take. Pioneered by Brazil 1970 star Roberto Rivelino, mastered by the legendary Algerian Salah Assad, and perfected by the impeccable Ronaldinho, the 'Gajo' is considered one of the sport's most difficult skills, delightful when it comes off yet horrendously embarrassing when it doesn't. It remains part of the skillset of many of football's present best dribblers, notably Cristiano Ronaldo.


Juju: Juju, or voodoo, per the parameters of African football, is the belief in mythical forces and omens or the use of related spiritistic items to gain undue advantage over an opponent. It could be used by teams to win games, by players to enhance their career prospects, or to sabotage a rival, usually a team or a player with whom one is in direct competition.


Kokofu-football: A football game with nepotistic undertones in which one isn't 'entitled' to a pass from another to whom he is unrelated to by familial or friendship ties. The term has been borrowed for use in the political sphere.


Mallam Goal: A fortuitous goal, especially one of considerable beauty which is regarded as partially or wholly unintended. It could also refer to a last-gasp match-winner.

Mmaa Nkamfo: To wit, playing to the admiration and applause of female observers (who are naturally appreciative of anything beautiful). In other words, aesthetically pleasant yet ultimately ineffective football, or playing to the gallery.

Mee-lo: Also known by a variety of other names in mainstream football, the 'Mee-lo' involves a player stepping over the ball, rolling it up the back of one leg with the other foot, before flicking the standing foot upwards to propel the ball forward and over the head in an arc. The trajectory the ball takes in the process gives this trick its most popular name, the Rainbow Kick.


Ofun: On its own, 'Ofun' - which translates as 'waste' in the Twi tongue - refers to a player considered really awful quality-wise. When combined with the word 'Real' (pronounced 'reel'), though, it forms part of a jeer-and-cheer chorus composed by Ghana fans during the 2008 Afcon the country hosted, with each half chanted alternately when possession switched hands between the opposition and Ghana respectively. While less frequently used these days, it still forms a part of the nation's distinct footballing identity.

One-top: Any football formation or tactical plan that requires a lone striker upfront.
One-Man-Thousand: A concept that, as the name quite aptly suggests, equates the ability of one man to that of a thousand. Players of Lionel Messi's quality or Cristiano Ronaldo's who are regarded as quite a handful for the opposition to deal with earn this complimentary tag.

Oluwa: A term probably coined and certainly popularized by ace Ghanaian commentator Kwabena Yeboah, usually uttered [by a commentator or occasionally by an elated fan] after a goal has been scored. The ‘A’ is stressed when the goal is beautiful and sometimes followed by the German expression ‘Wunderbar’ – meaning wonderful.


Pass-pass: A more expansive and extensive form of 'Abaaten', involving more players and typically employed for larger spells of a football game. Similar in many ways to Spain's 'tiki-taka' style.


Sanbewaame: A deceptive form of a miskick in which a player makes a defensive kick high up, only for the ball to return to the exact spot/region from which it was perceived to have been cleared, thus the name 'Sanbewaame' which literally means 'Return-to-marry-me'.

Suulia: A nutmeg, known in Mozambique's Ronga language as the 'shibobo'. The ideal 'Suulia' is one that goes smoothly through the legs of the 'victim'.
Susu: 'Susu' in local parlance implies the act of measuring, hence its application to the act of 'measuring' accurately the full height of the defensive player and lobbing the ball over him accordingly.

Stomach Direction: Striking the ball wide off the intended target. In the eventuality that the ball flies way over the bar, it is referred to as 'Agorn'.


Totals: Ball-juggling or keepy-uppy skills that, in certain quarters, are used as a somewhat accurate determinant of a footballer's true worth.


Wonkyendi: A highly competitive game of football in which the sides contest each other for a financial prize accumulated from a wager funded by both teams. Every player on each team is expected to contribute to raising the sum and, in the aftermath of the game, each member of the ultimately victorious side is given a share of the winnings proportionate to what he contributed.