Ball Control
This determines two things; how well a player initially controls the ball, then how good they are at keeping it under control. It’s another attribute that’s very desirable for dribblers and also for strikers – you could have the best finisher in the world up front, but if he can’t trap a bag of cement then he isn't going to get goals.
Source: ea.com, The Backpage, FIFA 12 – Attributes Guide: What They Do And How To Use Them

It’s a passage about soccer (the soccer game FIFA 12) and I only understand the literal meaning: trap a bag of concrete (cement), but what does cement refer to here? I have no idea.

2 Answers 2


First of all, trap here is a technical soccer term: it's the action of stopping the ball with your foot, so you can more easily aim your next kick. You can see a demonstration in this video.

This passage is using a common idiom in English: if you want to say that someone is really bad at a certain task, you suggest that even if the task were changed to make it extremely easy, they still couldn't do it. Some examples:

  • Someone who is bad at shooting: He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. (A barn is a large building and should be really easy to hit - someone who can't even do that must be really bad.)

  • Someone who's not good at convincing people to do things: He couldn't sell a bucket of water to a bloke [man] in burning trousers. (Someone whose trousers were on fire would be very eager to buy a bucket of water, but this person couldn't even make that sale.)

  • Someone who's stupid: He couldn't pour water out of a boot if you told him the instructions were on the bottom. Pouring water out of a boot is really easy, you just turn it over. If someone were really stupid, they might need instructions. If you told them the instructions were on the bottom, they would hopefully turn the boot over to read the instructions - when they turn it over, the water would pour out. If they still couldn't figure it out, they must be really, really stupid.

In this example, trapping a soccer ball is not that difficult. If you replaced the soccer ball with a bag of cement, which is very heavy and doesn't roll, bounce, or move much at all, trapping it would be extremely easy. So someone that couldn't even trap a bag of cement would be really bad at that skill.

These are all examples of humorous exaggeration or hyperbole.

The overall meaning is if he is really bad at trapping the ball, he isn't going to get goals.

  • 1
    Tiny, picky comment - it's normally 'out of a boot, if the instructions were on the heel' - [oh, and also when I've heard it, it's 'couldn't pour piss'. . .]
    – peterG
    Sep 12, 2014 at 0:14
  • @peterG Presumably, Nate avoided the more "authentic" saying in order to make his explanation easier to understand by an ESL learner, and also since some people still consider piss to be a "bad word".
    – Egghead99
    Sep 12, 2014 at 7:00
  • @Egghead99 Not sure that makes it easier to understand, or that that should take precedence over accuracy; and I do still consider 'piss' to be a 'bad word' - if we are to have bad words, I see no reason not to stick with the traditional ones. And there's plenty wrong with the Wikipedia entry you link, starting with the misspelling of 'arse' and going downhill from there.
    – peterG
    Sep 13, 2014 at 0:41

Bag of cement is literal bag of cement here. The meaning is that trapping a bag of cement is supposedly much easier than trapping the ball, and if player can't even trap a bag of cement, then he'll be even worse with the ball.

  • 3
    Erm... I think it's a figurative bag of cement, not a literal one. Presumably the allusion is to a passed ball that isn't going to bounce very high (bags of cement definitely don't bounce), so a player who can't trap and take control of that ball isn't likely to score many goals. Sep 11, 2014 at 16:04
  • 1
    You need to explain what "trap" means: that's a specific piece of terminology which I, a mid-30s native speaker came across for the first time today. Sep 11, 2014 at 22:06

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