There are 207 countries listed in the FIFA world soccer rankings (currently topped by Belgium with tiny Djibouti at the caboose). Each of these squads has a nickname, which to me seems like a golden opportunity to convey the essence of what your country is all about. It’s a chance to educate people and a platform to showcase national pride.
Unfortunately, most of world’s national soccer team names are, quite frankly, shamefully bland and unimaginative.
Instead of using a name as a vehicle to display what is wonderful or unique about their respective homelands, many countries reduce themselves to a mere jersey color, or settle for some variation of ‘The National Team.’ What a waste.
Thankfully, there are some nations that are self-assured enough, with keen enough marketing savvy, to put some real thought into their national team nicknames. Whether it’s a boast about a natural resource, a nod to an obscure animal, or the celebration of an attribute that embodies a nation’s mentality, we’re here to salute the world’s bold nickname trailblazers.
So Arrivederci, Azzuri, je suis désolé, Les Bleus, achtung, Die Mannschaft. Make way for some real team names.
1) Benin – Squirrels. I don’t know much about Benin. What I do know is that I am interested in learning more about any country that has the fortitude to name its national soccer team after the humble (yet feisty) squirrel. I’d be up for making a trip to Porto Novo on the strength of this thoughtful, distinctive selection alone.
2) Nicaragua – Los Pinoles (The Pinole Makers). Nicaragua is an underrated nation in so many ways. From a tourist perspective, they have it all and I’m glad to see they have an excellent nickname to boot, one which honors of their national beverage. ¡Vamos Los Pinoles!
3) China (Women’s team) – ????(The Forceful Roses). The usage of “forceful” here makes all the difference for me. Anyone could’ve gone for simply “The Roses” and called it a day, but that would not have nearly the same impact. Well done, China.
4) North Korea – Chollima (Thousand-mile Horse). In a land where only a handful of hairstyles are legal, you might expect a more conservative approach, or maybe even some sort of propaganda statement. Thankfully, the dear supreme politburo naming committee (I assume that’s the name) really let their hair down with this one. The Chollima, or thousand-mile horse, is a mythical horse with wings.
5) Philippines – Street Dogs. I can’t say I’ve ever seen the Philippines’ national team play, but this name effectively conjures a gritty, underdog determination that makes me want to root for them.
6) Bahamas – Rake ‘n’ Scrape Boyz. Throughout the Caribbean it’s fashionable for national team nicknames to end with “Boys” or “Boyz”. There are the Spice Boyz of Grenada (a nice nod to the island’s famous nutmeg), Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, the Nature Boyz of the British Virgin Islands, and of course the mighty Sugar Boys of St. Kitts and Nevis. But the Bahamas’ Rake ‘n’ Scrape Boyz get the slight edge here. I don’t know exactly what it means but it sounds tenacious and awesome.
7) Algeria – Fennec Foxes. Have you seen a fennec fox? They are easily among the top 10 cutest animals in the world. But don’t be fooled! They are also agile, cunning, fierce little creatures that are not to be trifled with.
8) Comoros – Coelacanths. The tiny island nation’s soccer team may be ranked 177 in the world, but their nickname demonstrates top of the table quality. The coelacanth is fascinating pre-historic fish that was thought to be extinct for millions of years until one was caught off the coast of South Africa in the 1930s. Now, they are found primarily along the coasts of east Africa, specifically in the waters around the island nation of Comoros.
9) Greece – The Pirate Ship. As a country Greece has had a tough go as of late, but don’t ever underestimate the people who invented democracy and the gyro sandwich. The 2004 European champs still have one of the best nicknames in the world, one which originates from the side’s smash-and-grab tactics at the aforementioned tournament.
10) Zambia – The Copper Bullets. Zambia has traditionally had vast copper reserves, which it proudly trumpets. This is the sort of natural resource boasting we need more of in the realm of international soccer nicknames.