“Steel Roses”, “Fire Ants”
Women’s football increasing popularity is reflected by the growing trend for nicknames, as illustrated by sobriquets such as “the Steel Roses” (China), “the Nadeshiko” (Japan), “the Matildas” (Australia, “the Black Queens” (Ghana), “the Brave Gladiators (Namibia), “the Super Falcons” (Nigeria), “Banyana Banyana” (South Africa), “the Fire Ants (Anguilla) and “the Mulan” (Chinese Taipei), among others.
Nicknames will continue to develop in both men’s and women’s football, and when they do not occur spontaneously, the member associations themselves create them, sometimes mindful of their economic potential. In early 2006, the Japan Football Association acquired its own nickname, “Samurai Blue”, after conducting a vote among fans. “We thought it was important to support the team. We did not do it merely for business reasons, but it did occur to us that it was an attractive name that the sponsors could use in their advertising,” explains Megumi Fujinoki from the Japanese FA’s communications department.
There is no doubt that nicknames are now of great significance, as shown by the fact that many fans use them to cheer on their team, e.g. in France (“Allez les Blues!”). This trend is now extending to other countries.
Only football is capable of generating so many nicknames and symbols, to the extent that even sport itself has acquired nickname: the beautiful game.