What is a Nutmeg in Soccer?

Soccer – a game that thrives on creativity and skill – offers a mesmerizing array of techniques that captivate both players and fans alike.

Amidst the tactical battles and strategic manoeuvres, one move stands out as a symbol of audacity and flair which is known as a nutmeg.

In the realm of soccer, the nutmeg represents a moment of triumph for the attacker and conversely, a moment of humiliation for the defender.

This article aims to delve into the art of the nutmeg, unraveling its origins, exploring the techniques involved, and examining its impact on the dynamics of a match.


What does getting “nutmegged” mean?

In soccer, getting “nutmegged” refers to the situation where a player has the ball passed or dribbled through their legs by an opponent. It occurs when the attacking player successfully manoeuvres the ball between the legs of the defending player, often catching them off guard or deceiving them with quick footwork.

what is a nutmeg in soccer - putting the ball through the legs of an opponent

Being nutmegged is considered embarrassing for the defending player, as it implies that they were outwitted or caught off balance.

It showcases the skill and cleverness of the attacking player, who effectively exploited a small gap between the defender’s legs to maintain possession or advance the play.

Nutmegging adds an element of flair and excitement to the game, often drawing reactions from spectators and even teammates.

More so, it can demoralize the defender while boosting the confidence and momentum of the attacking team.

Overall, they’re regarded as a display of skillful execution and can be a memorable highlight within a soccer match.

Have a look at the following video compilation which displays soccer players executing nutmegs or being on the unfortunate end of them during a game:


Where does the term “nutmeg” in soccer come from?

The origin of the term “nutmeg” in soccer, which coincidentally shares its name with a spice used in cooking, remains uncertain and has sparked several explanations throughout history.

One popular claim suggests that the term originated from Cockney rhyming slang, where “nutmeg” rhymes with “legs.”

According to this theory, “nutmeg” was used to describe the act of passing the ball through an opponent’s legs.

However, another perspective emerges from Peter Seddon’s book “Football Talk – The Language And Folklore Of The World’s Greatest Game.”

Seddon proposes that the term’s roots lie in the 1800s during the exportation of nutmeg between North America and England.

During this time, nutmeg was an incredibly valuable commodity.

Unscrupulous exporters attempted to deceive buyers by including wooden replicas mixed with the genuine nutmeg in the sacks being shipped to England.

This deceptive practice led to the association of being “nutmegged” with the notion of foolishness on the part of the victim and cunningness on the part of the trickster.

The term “nutmeg” was already well-established in British slang by that time and was applied to this particular soccer move due to the association of deception and trickery involved.

The act of nutmegging an opponent became synonymous with embarrassing them, as it showcased the attacker’s skill and left the defender humiliated.

Over time, the term “nutmeg” became firmly ingrained in the world of soccer, spreading beyond Britain to become a universally recognized term for passing the ball through an opponent’s legs.

Today, it continues to evoke excitement, applause, and a sense of astonishment whenever witnessed on the field, perpetuating the enduring legacy of this delightful soccer manoeuvre.


Who is the king of performing nutmegs in soccer?

Ironically, there are two players who were arguable equally as good as each other when it came to executing the nutmeg move during matches.

First up, we have…


1. Juan Román Riquelme

Juan Román Riquelme, without a doubt, established himself as a true maestro of nutmegs.

His mastery of this skill was so remarkable that he even pulled off a nutmeg without even touching the ball—an extraordinary feat that sets him apart from his contemporaries.

In the modern game, it is increasingly rare to find players who possess the same level of finesse and elegance as Riquelme.

He embodied the essence of football artistry, showcasing a mesmerizing cadence and control within the confines of the pitch.

Riquelme’s repertoire of nutmegs is vast and impressive, but two instances stand out in particular.

One involved a sensational nutmeg performed in reverse during a captivating Copa Libertadores match, leaving both opponents and spectators in awe.

The absence of players like Juan Román Riquelme is deeply felt in today’s football landscape.

And this is largely because their ability to infuse an extra dose of magic into the already captivating sport is sorely missed.

Riquelme served as a shining example of the artistry and enchantment that can be found within the beautiful game.

On the other hand, the other talented player worth mentioning here is…


2. Ronaldinho Gaúcho

This Brazilian superstar dazzled many soccer fans around the world with his extravagant moments of brilliance on the field.

Ronaldinho was the definition of a flair player, as he’d regularly toy with opposition defenders by executing silky pieces of footwork.

Slotting the ball through an opponent’s legs was light work for the former Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan man.

What was so special about Ronaldinho is that as a spectator you wouldn’t see the nutmeg move coming until he pulled it off, which was remarkable when you come to think about it.


What is a nutmeg goal in a soccer game?

In soccer, a nutmeg goal refers to a specific type of goal scored when a player successfully passes the ball between the legs of the goalkeeper or a defending player, resulting in the ball crossing the goal line and into the net.

It occurs when the attacking player shoots or passes the ball with enough precision and timing to thread it through the defender’s legs, catching them off guard and leaving the goalkeeper unable to make a save.

A nutmeg goal is often regarded as a display of exceptional skill and finesse.

It showcases the attacker’s ability to exploit a small gap between the defender’s legs, displaying both accuracy and cleverness in execution.

Additionally, the nutmeg goal can be a thrilling and memorable moment in a soccer match, leaving spectators impressed and the defending team disheartened.

On a separate note, scoring a nutmeg goal adds an extra layer of flair and style to a player’s repertoire, as it demonstrates not only their goal-scoring ability but also their ability to outmanoeuvre and deceive opponents.

Crucially, it’s a testament to the attacker’s technical prowess and quick thinking, making it a highly celebrated and appreciated type of goal in the world of soccer.


Concluding thoughts

In conclusion, the nutmeg in soccer represents a breath-taking display of skill, creativity, and audacity on the field.

It’s a dribbling move that transcends the ordinary, captivating players and fans alike with its ability to humiliate defenders and ignite the attacking team’s momentum.

Whether intentional or spontaneous, the nutmeg exemplifies the artistry and finesse that make soccer a truly beautiful game.

Before you go, have a read of soccer’s most captivating shooting technique.

Samuel Waihenya
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