Like many soccer terms, the nutmeg can cause some confusion among soccer fans or beginner players who are learning the sport.
In this article, we explain what a nutmeg is and explore the origin of the term. We also highlight some of the greatest Nutmeggers in world soccer.
What is a Nutmeg?
A nutmeg in soccer is when a player intentionally kicks the ball through another players legs.
There are many situations when a nutmeg happens in soccer. For instance, a striker could shoot through a goalkeeper’s legs into the goal, or a midfield player could play a pass to their teammate through an opponent’s legs.
However, the most common situation for a nutmeg is when an attacker takes on a defender in an advanced position. Usually, the attacker will kick the ball through the defender’s legs, run around them and receive the ball again.
Nutmeg Is Fun
There are a lot of ways a player can gain confidence in soccer. They can score a goal, save a shot or play a great pass. But no act builds the confidence quite like a nutmeg.
On the other hand, if a player is on the receiving end of nutmeg, it can be comical.
Even as an experienced soccer player and coach, I have given and receive a few nutmegs during matches and training, and even your teammates (in a friendly way) will make fun when it happens.
Just be prepared to take a few laughs if you get nutmegged!
Why is it called a nutmeg in soccer?
There have been several explanations as to where the term nutmeg came from in soccer.
However, the most reliable comes from Victorian slang, as listed in the Oxford English dictionary that explains that the nutmeg means ‘to be tricked or deceived’ or an act that makes someone ‘look foolish.'
The origin of the term nutmeg has been verified by etymologist Peter Seddon, who explains how the word has roots in the nutmeg trade between England and America in the 1800s.
Seddon explains how traders would steal the valuable nutmeg when transporting it. They would take the nutmeg and replace it with wood, which would 'dupe' the recipients when they opened their goods at the other end of the trade.
Over time, different variations of the word nutmeg have emerged in world soccer. Among them are the English ‘megs’, ‘nuts’, ‘tunnel’ or the South American, ‘Panna’.
Who is the best Nutmegger in the World?
Nutmegs are a difficult skill in any level of soccer. To do it regularly at the elite level against some of the toughest defenders is no mean feat.
Often, you will see an attacking player with flair pull off a nutmeg in elite-level soccer.
In the 2020/21 season, soccer statistics providers FBref compiled a list of the players who completed the most nutmegs in Europe’s top five leagues.
1. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) – 21
2. Neymar (Paris St Germain) – 18
3. Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) – 16
4. Kylian Mbappe (Paris St Geramin) – 15
5. Piotr Zielinski (Napoli) – 13
How to Nutmeg
Pulling off the nutmeg takes hours and hours of practice to perfect. The best place to start is at a slow pace, passing the ball through cones placed at a narrow width. This helps with the accuracy and weight of the pass.
Once this skill is mastered, speeding up the process comes next. Some of the best nutmeggers can execute the skill at full pace, so running with the ball with speed, then trying to pass through the cones is important.
The next step is to try and nutmeg an opponent. Again, try working at a slower pace, to begin with, then try to speed up the process as you become more confident.
After time and practice with speed and accuracy, you can try to pull off different kinds of nutmegs.
Street footballers often toy with their opponent before slipping the ball between their victim's legs. But these players have practised the skills hundreds of times before perfecting them.
Panna: The Nutmeg Soccer Game
Although nutmeg has been a part of soccer for centuries, it has gained more mainstream popularity in recent years. So much so that there is a tournament dedicated to all things nutmeg.
Panna is a 1v1 or 2v2 soccer match where players score by passing the ball through an opponents legs and into a goal. Players or teams score points by either scoring more goals or by nutmegging the opponent. If a player is nutmegged, the match is over.
Panna is played on a small pitch, or on the street in some cases, with a referee throwing the ball in to begin the play and keep score.
Panna began in Surinam in 2007, and the game has spread across the globe. It is now most popular in the Netherlands, where multiple Panna tournaments are played each year.
Nutmeg In a nutshell
A nutmeg in soccer is when one player puts the ball through another players legs. The nutmeg is a great skill that contrasts the joy of one player at the cost of humiliation for the receiving players.
The nutmeg is more than just a piece of skill, however. It is a source of great entertainment for fans, and it gets spectators off their feet in applause.
In modern soccer, the nutmeg has grown in popularity. The nutmeg is now so popular that entire games and tournaments are dedicated to the art of the nutmeg.
Ultimately, it is a skill that any soccer player can perfect. Taking slow steps and committing time and effort into pulling off the nutmeg is key to pulling it off.