soccer nutmeg

A nutmeg is a skill used in athletic activities like hockey and basketball, but it is most notably performed in soccer. The idea is a straightforward one to comprehend. The objective is to kick the ball between the legs of your opponent. When successfully executed, it can be mighty effective.


The birth of the term “nutmeg” has nothing to do with the spice. The precise origin is a mystery, but a plurality of viable answers exist. One theory is a bit crude and invented by a man. According to this theory, the “nut” in “nutmeg” refers to the player’s testicles. The (soccer) ball goes between the player’s legs and, therefore, also under his testicles.

Another theory doesn’t include such masculine foolery. The Cockney dialect of English uses a construction referred to as “rhyming slang.” The idea is that the term is replaced with a word that rhymes with it. For example, “apples and pears” is an old Cockney slang way of saying “stairs.” In the case of “nutmeg,” it probably refers to the player’s leg because “meg” rhymes with “leg.”

One etymological theory claims that the name is related to the spice. In the late 1800s, the nutmeg trade between America and England was thriving. Nutmegs were costly treasures. To save money, some traders participated in some shady nutmeg dealings. They would trick their trading partner by replacing many of the nutmeg supplies with fake, wooden nutmegs. This duping scheme led to the term “nutmegging” being coined to mean “tricking someone in a way that implies they are stupid.”

soccer nutmeg

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Other Terms for Nutmeg

“Nutmeg” isn’t the only term for this soccer move. Some languages have similar equivalents. For example, Austrians refer to this move with the word “lurker,” which means small cucumber. With the high risk of being crude, I’ll leave you to decipher that metaphor on your own. In Mandarin, the term is “穿裆” (chuāndāng), which is equivalent to “through the crotch” in English.

Many languages have terms that have something to do with a tunnel or bridge since the ball is going through a sort of tunnel. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway all use the term “tunnel.” In France, it’s “petit pont,” which means little bridge. In Bulgaria, the term “мрежичка” means “little net.”

Other languages have translations that have nothing to do with genitalia or bridges. In Cyprus, the term is “Παττίχα,” which means watermelon. In Malawi, “kalulu” is the term, and it translates directly as “the rabbit.” In the Czech Republic, they use their word for “violin”: “house.”

Legendary Nutmegs

One soccer star in particular is known as “The King of Nutmegs.” This is the Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi. Throughout his career, he has performed over 100 successful nutmegs.

Several of these nutmeg moments have gone viral. One of the most popular ones happened in November 2018. Messi was still playing for Barcelona, and they were facing off against Madrid. Luis Suarez was the poor soul battling Messi for the ball. Messi ran, back-heeled the ball through Suarez’s legs, then continued running with the stolen ball.

Although Suarez was the victim of a nutmegging in that instance, he often pulled off nutmegs himself. From Uruguay, Luis Suarez is a soccer superstar in his own right. This Inter Miami player is known as one of the best forward players in the world. He also happens to be known for his nutmegs. Fans even say he could nutmeg a mermaid!

nutmeg in soccer

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Professional vs. Street Soccer

The nutmeg is used in both professional soccer and street soccer. Soccer superstars like Messi and Neymar use this move all the time in prestigious competitions. They even perform them on the world stage, such as in the World Cup.

Nutmegs are also used in street soccer. Panna is the name of a street soccer variation that originated in the Netherlands. In some versions of Panna, the only objective is to nutmeg your opponent.

A Panna 1×1 starts with one player waiting in front of each goal. The referee commences the game by depositing the game ball in the center of the court. The duration of the match is 3 minutes. The objective is to get the most points or to achieve a nutmeg. If a player achieves a nutmeg (also called a panna), they win automatically.

There are also Panna 2×2. The rules are the same, but there are 2 players on each side. These matches last 5 minutes, rather than 3. There are even Panna (both 1×1 and 2×2) tournaments that take place around the world. Amateur soccer players all over like attempting to nutmeg their opponents.

nutmeg in soccer

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How to Achieve a Nutmeg

If you dream of being like soccer superstars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, there are two scenarios when a soccer nutmeg is possible. In the first scenario, the opponent is running away with the ball. The nutmeg-attempter would have to catch their opponent off guard and kick the ball through their legs from behind.

The second scenario starts with the opponent defensively protecting the ball at a slow pace. To complete the nutmeg, the nutmeg-attempter would have to lean one way and then fake out the opponent by going the other way. At that point, the conditions necessary to pass the ball through their opponent’s legs are met.

In both cases, it’s important to store a few key tidbits in your back pocket. First, consider your positioning. If your opponent is face-on, you have a much better chance than if they are on either side of you. Second, timing is critical. Everything in soccer, especially at the professional level, is extremely fast. You have to pick the exact right moment to pull off this tricky move.

The last key factor of the nutmeg in soccer is psychological. Mind games are essential to pull off a nutmeg. You could catch your opponent at a moment of vulnerability while they are distracted. You could also fake out your opponent to create a state of confusion yourself.

nutmeg in soccer

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How to Avoid Being Nutmegged

When participating in a soccer game, a player’s goal is usually one of these two objectives. The first is to keep the ball in their possession. The second is to pass the ball off to a fellow teammate. Being nutmegged disrupts this objective. The nutmeg is a method of stealing the ball. However, that’s not the only reason a player would want to avoid being nutmegged. It is also an embarrassing thing to happen to you. Nutmegging makes the victim look incapable and confused. Avoiding a nutmeg means avoiding a moment of soccer humiliation.

Achieving a nutmeg is difficult, even for professional soccer players. However, avoiding being “nutmegged” is easier. Since the key to a nutmeg is catching your opponent off guard, concentrating is the key to avoiding being nutmegged. While running with the ball, keep your feet close to each other so there’s no room for the nutmeg.


A nutmeg isn’t just a spice. It is also a celebrated soccer move with an interesting etymological origin. Although the term contains a thinly veiled reference to male genitalia, people of all genders can engage in a nutmeg. Of course, you must possess impeccable soccer skills and a profound understanding of the positioning, timing, and psychological games that play a role in a nutmeg. If your soccer skills aren’t incredible and you happen to participate in a match for some reason, you can at least avoid the humiliation of being nutmegged.

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