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What is the difference between "up" and "down" in football context? I'm puzzled because both prepositions show a movement towards the opponent's goal.

54 min Chelsea 0 Man City 0
Zakaria wins the ball and hares up the inside-right and then rolls it to his right for Ziyech but he can't thread his return past Ake and the attack fizzles out.

90 min +5: Leicester break! Justin hares down the right and should find either Dewsbury-Hall or Maddison in the middle.

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    In this football context, "up" normally means "up the field" (that is, towards the goal), and down means the opposite.
    – ralph.m
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 13:15
  • Why do you have both?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 14:28
  • @ralph.m Up means up the field. So it means towards the goal to the field. This doesn't make sense. How can I understand it?
    – Nyenok
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 15:02
  • If you move from the other end of the field towards where you want to make your goal, you are moving up the field or pitch.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 17:49
  • @Lambie Why doesn"t this sentence use "up" if moving towards the opponent's goal? 90 min +5: Leicester break! Justin hares down the right and should find either Dewsbury-Hall or Maddison in the middle.
    – Nyenok
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 18:07

3 Answers 3

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There is no real difference. On a flat surface with no relation to cardinal directions, "up" and "down" can usually be used arbitrarily and interchangeably.

That said, "down" is often used to indicate motion in the direction of travel, as in the case of "downwind", "downrange", or "downriver" indicating the direction where things are going, not where they came from. I would usually call an offensive player advancing toward the defense's goal as moving down the field, but it would also be reasonable to say they're moving up the field.

In the specific case of American football, the use of "downfield" is even codified in the rules to indicate the direction in which the offense is moving.

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  • Football is not related to what you are saying at all.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 15:30
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    @Lambie Exactly. "Down-X" typically means "in the direction of travel", there's no real reason why that general rule should be reversed in the specific case of football. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 15:44
  • If you're heading towards making a goal from say, the center line, we would say UP the field. Then, if some player gets the ball away from you, he turns around and heads DOWN the field. It's all in relation to that kind of thing.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 15:46
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    @Lambie You might say that, "we" would not. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 15:48
  • That was not the main point. And as for cardinality, that is irrelevant.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 15:52
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In some usages, 'up' and 'down' can be used interchangeably - this is one of those cases. This is because going 'up the field' and 'down the field,' for example, both mean to progress through or across the field. How this usage came to be is another question - I'd guess it had to do with vertical contexts originally, that drifted until either could be used in a horizontal plane, but the simple version is both words are correct. Like others mentioned, 'up' would usually mean towards the goal you intend to score in, but with this usage as a verb down would also be suitable.

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    Interesting, it's the opposite in American football. It's even codified in the name of a penalty, "ineligible receiver downfield", called when an ineligible offense player is too far forward on the field past the line of scrimmage. To me, the usage can be fairly arbitrary like "up/down the street". Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 17:20
  • Ah I was wondering about that, I felt like I had heard it used that way but I don't know football (either football) well enough to remember which way was which. Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 17:28
  • @RyanJensen why doesn't this sentence use "up" if the player moves towards the opponent's goal? 90 min +5: Leicester break! Justin hares down the right and should find either Dewsbury-Hall or Maddison in the middle.
    – Nyenok
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 18:10
  • Because the two words can both be used for that meaning, and the author chose to use down. Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 15:35
  • No, Ryan, it depends on your position on the field in relation to where you need to go. And what the others are doing. It is not interchangeable.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 15:31
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Here is the quote:

54 min Chelsea 0 Man City 0 Zakaria wins the ball and hares up the inside-right and then rolls it to his right for Ziyech but he can't thread his return past Ake and the attack fizzles out. From the The Telegraph in the UK

Generally, you attack moving towards where you want to make a goal.

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