Jun
01
2007
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Animals, warriors and colors

The national teams of FIFA’s 207 member associations have alternative names that fans use as an informal, more intimate means of referring to the object of their allegiance. Nicknames are in fashion.

The associations themselves welcome these symbolic titles and new identities, which bring the teams closer to the fans and in some cases have great commercial potential due to the sale of merchandise.
The phenomenon of bestowing nicknames on national teams has reached unexpected heights in Africa, where virtually all countries’ first elevens are identified with an indigenous animal. This practice is so widespread that in some African newspapers, the reader may take several paragraphs to realize who the opposing teams in a particular match were if he is not familiar with the nicknames used across the continent.
For example, the reader is expected to glean from headline such as “Crocodiles eat Blue Sharks” that Lesotho defeated Cape Verde, whereas “Scorpions sting Elephants” implies that Gambia secured a positive result in their match against Cote d’Ivoire.
Meanwhile, the African Cup of Nations is contested by various kinds of lion, elephants, sparrowhawks, zebras, fish, cranes, sharks, hawks, wasps, different species of antelope, foxes, squirrels, swallows, panthers and scorpions representing the full spectrum of African wildlife.