The world of football loves a good nutmeg but what is a nutmeg in football

A nutmeg is often met with a massive cheer from the fans if one of their players pulls it off against an opponent, or with a silence of embarrassment if one of their players is at the receiving end. 

Although it is not an officially coined term that is found in football’s constitution, it is one of the most commonly used colloquialisms in modern football. 

What is a nutmeg in football?

A nutmeg in football is a trick where the football is pushed or passed through in-between the opponent player's legs while progressing the ball and keeping possession for his or her team. A player is termed to be nutmegged or megged when the opponent successfully pushes, dribbles or cleanly passes the ball between his or her legs.

Nutmeg is also known as "Panna" in some regions of the world. While some pundits consider it disrespectful, most fans consider it to be an integral part of Jogo Bonito (Beautiful Game). 

There are multiple origin stories to this word. Popular English historian Peter Seddon wrote in his book “Football Talk - The Language And Folklore Of The World's Greatest Game” that the word emerged from 19th-century Victorian slang. 

Interestingly, he highlighted that the word nutmeg is also listed in the Oxford English Dictionary where it is defined as "Arising in the 1870s which in Victorian slang came to mean 'to be tricked or deceived, especially in a manner which makes the victim look foolish'."

We often see players engage in nutmeg competitions during pre-match practice sessions. There are also passing sessions where four or five players form a circle and pass the ball around, keeping it away from one chasing or two players in between them in a Rondo. When one of the passers nutmegs the chaser, the players usually erupt in celebration and joy. 

Footballing superstars like Ronaldo Nazario, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Robinho and others constantly used this trickery to gain an advantage over their opponents.

Here’s a video of Brazilian icon Ronaldinho mastering the art of nutmeg. 

In other sports, a nutmeg is also called “five-hole” in ice hockey when the puck goes through the goalkeeper's legs, into the goal. In cricket, English batter Nat Sciver hit the ball through her legs, thus earning the name “Natmag” for that shot. 

Manu Ginóbili and Jamaal Tinsley, popular basketball players from the American competition NBA, often attempt to pass the ball to their teammates through the legs of an opponent in what can also be considered a nutmeg in basketball.


Photo credits: Alamy