Stars and devils
Another host of nicknames feature stars, e.g. the “Black Stars” of Ghana, the “Harambee Stars” of Kenya (“harambee” meaning “We will work together in Swahili, which is also the country’s motto), Liberia’s “Lone Star” (a reference to the solitary star that appeas on the Liberian flag), the “Leone Stars” of Sierra Leone, the “Ocean Stars” of Somalia and the “Kilimanjaro” or “Taifa Stars” of Tanzania (“taifa” being Swahili for “country”). “The rational for choosing features of the night sky is that they represent the hope that difficulties in contemporary urban life will overcome,” says Poli.
“The Red Devils” is also a popular nickname and has been adopted by the national teams of Belgium (“le Diables Rouges” in French and “Rode Duivels” in Flemish) and Congo (“Les Diables Rouges”), whereas “the Dragons” is the sobriquet used by Wales, Bhutan (“the Yellow Dragons”) and China (“Team Dragon” or “Long Zhi Dui”). Another animal that features strongly is the antelope or deer, which have become the symbols of countries such as Angola (aka the “Palancas Negras” or “the Black Anthelopes”), Niger (“Walyas”) and Central African Republic (“les Faons d’Ubangui”). “The dragon is chosen for its natural strength and ferocity, whereas antelopes and other similar animals are adopted for their gracefulness and elegance rather than their strength,” explains Poli.
Other animals that symbolize more than one country are horse in the sobriquet of Korea DPR (who are named after the mythical “Chollima”) and Turkmenistan “Akhal-Teke or “the Dark Horses”), and the elephant, after which Cote d’Ivoire and the “Syli” of Guinea are nicknamed. Some epithets are very recent, e.g. that of the Greek national team, whose fans christened them the “Peirates” 9”the Pirates”) after they won the 2004 European Championship in Portugal, as they perceived their country’s victory as an attack on the Portuguese “flagship” in which they had made off with treasure. This nickname is shared by the Seychelles on account of the buccaneers that lurked in the waters surrounding these islands in centuries gone by.
Not to be outdone by their seniors, junior teams also have their own nicknames, which include “les Diablotins” (Belgium), “les Bleuets” (France), “the Joeys (Australia), “the Palanquinhas” (Angola), “les Elephanteaux” (Cote d’Ivoire), “the Black Meteors” (Ghana), “les Lionceaux” (Marocco), “the Flying Eagles” (Nigeria) and “the Puma Strikers” (Papua New Guinea).