One of the most difficult things for new fans to understand are the nicknames of national football teams.
What? You thought that national teams playing in the World Cup were just called “Nigeria” or “England”? Nope—they have nicknames.
There are some cool ones, some weird ones and some stupid ones!
You'll see a bit of all three in this list.
These national football teams and their nicknames are not all official names, and you’d be surprised to learn that some national teams use more than one nickname.
I have exhaustively tried to find the most commonly used nicknames and included them in this article.
As you’d see, these national soccer team nicknames are commonly derived from the color of their playing strip or country flag, or an animal associated with the country.
Nicknames Of African Football Teams
African football teams have always had unusual nicknames, and this has become a tradition in the continent. Most of the teams are nicknamed after animals as they represent life, strength, and courage.
Some nicknames were made by the fans which are usually related to the colours of their flags or natural phenomena in the country.
Nigeria Soccer Team Nickname
I’m not going to go on without mention the Nigeria national team in particular.
Just as the Algeria football team, Senegal national team, Brazil national team – and so on and so forth – all have nicknames, so does Nigeria.
The Nigeria national football team are nicknamed Super Eagles and they are governed by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
Meanwhile, I have this article where I made a list of super eagles coaches – and I mean ALL of them from inception till date.
National Football Team Nicknames
Let me attempt to examine the nicknaming practice of national football teams.
Each team are known by their nations’ respective official name.
However, it has been observed that in addition to the official name, most if not all national football teams tend to bear a nickname.
In most cases, such nicknames of football teams reveal linguistic creativity; innovation and unlimited imagination on the part of the namers.
This practice of nicknaming in football also exhibits the nature of social interaction between human beings and other animate and inanimate beings alike in the world in which they are found.
For this reason, the interchange between the two above indicates that a nickname, like a proper name, is: “a social statement reflecting the bearer, the namer and the social environment in which the name is found.
Nicknames in football show connotative meanings that reflect deep-rooted social, political and national pride and patriotism of the people for their respective nations.
This in turn appears to foreground a nation's expectations of success in soccer.
Nickname definition and what it really means
The term nickname has been defined as a name given to an individual [or even a collective entity] by a community which is usually descriptive in form because it tends to sum up that individual [or group] character’s physical shape or idiosyncratic features.
What's more, nicknames act as tokens for establishing an informal relaxed atmosphere”.
Nicknames are evocative and carry particular messages.
Meaning nicknames are not mere empty words but are words that say something about their referents.
Africans have their own naming system that reflects their linguistic diversity and link them to their own cultural and social values and traditions.
In the context of football, national teams bear nicknames that are given purposefully and which reflect the national team’s fighting spirit.
Unlike proper names which are usually given by someone or by an institution and are easily identifiable, nicknames in soccer may be given by either sports journalists as they write their news stories or by football fans through associating what they see to what they expect or what is already known.
The following is a list of football team nicknames:
meaning “the National Team” (in Persian)
“the Red and Blacks” (in Albanian)
The Desert Foxes (in French)
“the National Team” (in Samoan)
la Seleccio Tricolor
“the Tricolor Selection” (in Catalan)
Os Palancas Negras
The Black Antelopes (in Portuguese)
the Rainbow Warriors or "the Soccer Dolphins"
Antigua and Barbuda
the Wadadi Boyz
Wadadi is a local dance
“the White and Sky Blues” (in Spanish)
“the National Team” in Armenia
a hybrid word from Soccer and Kangaroo (a native animal to Australia)
meaning the Wonder Team (also das Team, die Rot-Weiss-Roten - “the Red, White and Reds” in German)
Odlar Yurdu Komandasi
“the Team from the Land of Fire” in Azeri
the Rake and Scrape Boys
named after a local dance
Al Theeb Al Ahmar
meaning “the Red Wolves” in Arabic
“the National Team” in Bengali
Bajan is a popular team for citizens of Barbados
which means "White wings". Previously it was "Nacionalnaya Sbornaya" meaning “the National Team” in Belorussian.
les Diables Rouges / Rode Duivels
meaning 'the Red Devils' (in French and Dutch)
The Squirrels (in French)
the Gombey Warriors
after a traditional dance
the Yellow Dragons
also Druk XI (“the Dragons XI” in Dzongkha)
La Verde means 'The Green' or to some 'The Green Pasture' because of one of the colors of the national flag.
Zmajevi means "The Dragons". It is a popular nickname of all Bosnian sport players. In foreign media, the team is sometimes referred to as the Golden Lilies. Other names that have been used include: BH Representacija - “the National Team” (in Bosnian), and Zuto-Plavi (“the Blue and Yellows” in Bosnian).
Dipitse ("The Zebras")
meaning "The Zebras" in the Tswana lanuage
Canarinho, or Seleção
Canarinho means 'little canary', and Seleção means The Selection/Team (in Portuguese). Other names that are sometimes used are Verde-Amarela (Green and Yellow)
Pentacampeões (Five Time Champions), and Os Tupis - The "tupis" (a brazilian indigenous group)
British Virgin Islands
the Nature Boyz
meaning "The Wasps" or “the Hornets” in Malay.
“the Lions” in Bulgarian
the Stallions” in French
les Hirondelles – Intamba Mu Rugamba
“the Swallows” in French and Kirundi
“the National Team” in Khmer
meaning Indomitable Lions (in French)
Canucks is a slang term for Canadians. Also Les Rouges, meaning 'The Reds'
“the Blue Sharks” (in Portuguese). Also Crioulos (“the Creoles” in Portuguese)
Cayman Islands Team
maybe "The Turtles"
Central African Republic
les Faons d’Ubangui
“the Fwans of Ubangui”, a tributary of the Congo river, in French
after the Sao civilization that once inhabited part of Chad
The Reds (in Spanish)
Team China – Zhong Guo Dui,
also Team Dragon – Long Zhi Dui
Zhong Hua Dui
“China Team” in Chinese
meaning The Coffee Growers in Spanish. Also “the Tricolors”
“the Coelecanths” in French, a prehistoric fish once believed to be extinct but which has reappeared off the coast of Comoros
les Diables Rouges
“the Red Devils” in French
Les Léopards / The Leopards
Between 1960 and 1965, they were called the Lions. From 1965 till 1997 they were the Leoopards, before reverting back to the Simbas (“the Lions” in Swahili) from 1997 till 2006. However this Swahili name was unpopular to non-Swahili speakers, so they again became the Leopards.
Soka Kuki Airani
“the National Team” in Maori, the Green and Whites
Spanish slang for natives of Costa Rica. Also la Tricolor (“the Tricolors” in Spanish), la Roja (“the Reds”), la Sele (“the Selection”
The Elephants (in French), due to their part in the 19th century Ivory trade
meaning Fiery boys. Also sometimes Kockasti (The Chequereds)
meaning “the Tricolors” (in Spanish). Also los Leones del Caribe (“the Lions of the Caribbean”)
“the White and Blues” in Greek
The Locomotive. Also Cesti Lvi ( "the Czech Lions” in Czech), Narodny Tym (“the National Team” in Czech)
les Riverains de la Mer Rouge
the Young Red Sea in French
maybe "los Pericos"
a slang term for Dominicans in Spanish
la Tri or la Tricolor
the Tricolor (in Spanish)
Los Guanacos or La Selecta
“Guanaco” is Spanish slang for citizens of El Salvador
the Three Lions
la Nzalang Nacional
“the National Lighting” (in Fang). Also Veve Nacional (“the National Sparkle” in Fang).
the Red Sea Boys
“the Blues” in Estonian
a species of wild goat
“the National Team” in Faroese
Bula is a fijian greeting. Also sometimes "Timi ni viti", meaning “the National Team” in Fijian
“the White and Blues” in Finnish
meaning 'the blues' in French
the Panthers” in French
meaning “the Crisaders” in Georgian. Also Erovnuli Nakrevi (“the National Team” in Georgian)
Die Nationalmannschaft, or Die Nationalelf
meaning 'The National Team', 'The National Eleven' (in German). Outside of Germany, simply 'Die Mannschaft' (The Team) is commonly used.
the Black Stars
a reference to the sole black star on Ghana's flag
translates as “the Sky Blue and White team” in Greek. They are also sometimes referred to as Ethniki Ellados (“the Greek Team” in Greek) and ''To Peiratikó'' (“Pirates” in Greek) though the pirates is not an official nickname, it just came about after they won Euro 2004.
the Spice Boyz
Matao refers to the people in the upper class of the ancient Guam society. Previously the team was known as "the Men in Blue and White".
el Equipo Chapin
“Chapin” is Spanish slang for a citizen of Guatemala. also la Azul y Blanco (“the Blue and Whites” in Spanish) and la Bicolor (“the Bicolors”)
the National Elephants. Syli is a word in Sousou, a Guinean language, which means Elephant.
Creole for a species of fox
The Golden Jaguars, the Guy Stars
les Bicolores means “the Bicolors” in French. There are also several other names that they are known by, including:
Le Rouge et Bleu
La Sélection Nationale
l’Onze national (“the National Eleven” in French)
Toup Pou Yo
Catracho is Spanish slang for a citizen of Honduras, therefore meaning 'the Hondurans'. Also la Bicolor (“the Bicolors” in Spanish)
Hong Kong Team
“the National Team” in Hungarian). Also the Magical Magyars (particularly in relation to the Hungary team of the 1950s)
“Our Boys” in Icelandic
The Indian National team are also sometimes referred to as the "Bhangra Boys" (Bhangra is a dance originating from the Punjab region)
meaning “the Red and Whites”. Another nickname for the Indonesian Football Team is "Garuda" (see comments below)
meaning the National Team (in Persian). Also Shirants Perse / Shiran-e Pars (“the Persian Lions” in Persian).
Osod Al Rafideen
“the Lions of the Two Rivers” in Arabic, also the Babylon Lions
“the Sky Blue Team” in Hebrew
Azzurri is the plural of Azurro (Blue), terefore Azurri means "The Blues". The team is also sometimes referred to as la Nazionale (“the National Team”).
also Nihon Daihyo (“Japanese Representatives” in Japanese)
“the Brave” in Arabic
“the Snow Leopards” in Russian
the Harambee Stars
“Harambee” means “We will work together” in Swahili and is also the country’s motto.
North Korea (Korea DPR)
A Korean mythical horse, translates as "thousand-mile horse" and is portrayed as a mythical winged horse.
South Korea (Korea Republic)
Asian Tigers or Taeguk Warriors
also the Red Devils. The Taeguk symbol of two hands clasping is in the middle of the Korean flag.
“the Blues” in Arabic
“the Red Team” in Russian
“the National Team” in Laos
“the National Team” in Latvian
“the Team of Cedars” in Arabic
“the Crocodile” in Sesotho
the Lone Star
“the Greens” in Arabic
short for “Nationalmannschaft”, meaning “National Team” in German
“the National Team” in Lithuanian
“the Lions” in Luxembourgish
a Equipa Verde
“the Green Team” in Portuguese
Macedonia (Republic of North)
Црвени Рисови /
“The Red Lynx”. Also known as Црвено-Жолти / Crveno-Žolti, meaning Red-Yellow.
a species of zebu, which appears of the country’s coat of arms
the word “Malawi” itself means “flames” in Chichewa
The Red snapper is type of fish abundant in the waters around the Maldives. The team has also been known as Guamee Team - “the National Team” in Dhivehi.
The Eagles (in French)
Knights of St John
after an ancient dynasty that ruled Mauritania
Also "les Dodos" after the dodo bird
el Tri / el Tricolor / Tricolores
also less commonly uses the alternative nickname of "Los Aztecas".
“the Selection” in Moldovan
( Хөх чононууд )
Blue Wolf is a symbol of Turkic and Mongolian people.
Named after the Mongolian Blue Wolf legend. The team has also been known in the past as "Shegshee", which means “the National Team” in Mongolian.
“The Brave Falcons” in Serbian
the Emerald Boys
les Lions de l’Atlas, Atlas Lions
“the Lions of Atlas” (in French), named after the Atlas Mountains
the most poisonous snake in Africa
also Latywesinahthin, “the National Team” in Myanmar
the Brave Warriors
Gorkhalis means the inhabitants of Gorkha. Nepal was frequently called the Gorkhali Kingdom. Sometimes they are also called "Rastriya Toli", meaning “the National Team” in Nepalese.
Netherlands / Holland
meaning 'orange' (in Dutch)
“the Selection” in Papiamento
French for the kagu bird that is native to New Caledonia. Also known as les Rouges et Gris (“the Red and Greys” in French).
the All Whites
la Azul y Blanco
meaning “the Blues and Whites”. Also known as el Equipo Pinolero (“Pinolero” is a slang for a citizen of Nicaragua)
a species of antelope
the Super Eagles
a reference to the Eagle in the country's Coat of Arms. The name was changed from Green Eagles to the Super Eagles.
Northern Mariana Islands
In the local Chamorro dialect, the "y" is pronounced like a "z." So it is pronounced ah-zu-zus. An ayuyu is a large land crab that is prized as a delicacy. Both the men and women's teams use this nickname.
the Green and White Army
“the National Team” in Norwegian
“the Reds” in Arabic
the Green and White Team
“the National Team” in Arabic
“the Red Tide”. Also known as el Equipo Canalero (“the Canal Team”)
Papua New Guinea
PNG Team – Nesenol Tim
“the National Team” in Tok Pisin
also La Albirroja (White and red in Spanish)
“the White and Reds” in Spanish
Derived from the word askal, meaning “the Stray Dogs” in Philipino. They are also known as the "Tri-Stars" (From the three stars on their flag).
White-Reds ( in Polish). Also Polskie Orly (“ the Polish Eagles” in Polish)
Selecção das Quinas
in Portuguese the word "QUINAS" is a 5 sided Polyhedron, representing the "Forts" (Castles) Conquered from the Moors, in the "Foundation" of Portugal in 1143.
El Huracán Azul
Spanish for "The Blue Hurricane"
“the Crimsons” in Arabic
Republic of Ireland
the Boys in Green
Three Colored Ones (in Romanian)
The nickname Sbornaya for Russia is foreign. In Russian it's not a nickname but just a noun (originally an adjective) meaning 'national team' or 'selected team', i.e. the word is applied to any national/selected team in any sport.
“the Wasps” in Kinyarwanda
after a native bird
“the Most Serene” in Italian
Sao Tome e Principe
“the Green and Yellows” in Portuguese
Al Sogour Al Akhdar
“the Green Hawks/Falcons” (in Arabic). Also Ouilad Al Sahraa (“the Sons of the Desert” in Arabic)
The Tartan Terriers
the "Tartan Army" is also used, particularly in reference of Scotland’s fans
Les Lions de la Teranga
The Lions of Teranga / the Lions of Hospitality (in French). “Teranga” originates from the Wolof language.
the blue, or Orlovi (“the eagles” in Serbian)
the Leones Stars
In Slovakia the team is typically referred to as the Repre (Representation) or Národný tím (National team). However, in foreign media, they are often incorrectly described as Bojovní Jondovci (The Fighting Jondas).
Meaning 'the boys'.However, the team's wikipedia page says that Slovenia does not have a nickname. They are sometimes incorrectly called The (Green) Dragons, a symbol of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. There are also some references that the Slovenian team nickname is Reprezentanca, meaning “the Representatives” in Slovenian.
after a species of fish similar to tuna
the Ocean Stars
the boys, the boys in isiZulu.The name was coined by journalist Sibusiso Mseleku in 1992
La Furia Roja
meaning 'The Red Fury'. Also la Seleccion (“the Selection” in Spanish).
also sometimes known as Papandu Kandyama, which means “the National Team” in Sinhalese.
St Kitts and Nevis
The Sugar Boyz
St Vincent and the Grenadines
the Vincy Heat
Desert Hawks. Also the Nile Crocodiles
Natio stands for the abbreviation of national, and national refers to national team. Other names that are used are A-Selektie, which means “the A Selection” in Dutch, and Suriboys.
“the Shield of His Majesty” in Swaz
the Blue and Yellows (in Swedish). Also Kronos (“the Crowns” in Swedish).
Schweizer Nati, or just Nati
meaning 'The Nats' – short for Nationals
the Reds” in Arabic
in Tahitian means "The Iron Warriors". In French, it is Les guerriers de fer. It was previously believed to be "L'Equipe du Fenua", the Island team - “fenua” means “island” in Tahitian.
“the National Team” in Tajik
the Taifa Stars
“Taifa” is Swahili for country. Also known as the Kilimanjaro Stars
also known as Team Chart Tai, “the National Team” in Thai
O Sol Nascente
Meaning 'The Rising Sun' in Portugeuese. Also known as The Little Samba Nation and El Lafaek.
the hawks or Sparrowhawks (in French)
“the National Team” in Tongan
Trinidad & Tobago
The Soca Warriors
named after a local musical genre
Les Aigles de Carthage
The Eagles of Carthage (in French)
Ay Yıldızlılar (or Ay Yildiz
meaning Crescent Stars
meaning the Dark Horses
Turks and Caicos Islands
maybe also "the Ripsaw Boys"
the bird which appears on their crest
Zbirna or Sbirna
national team (in Ukrainian)
United Arab Emirates
“the Eagles” in Arabic
also La Celeste Olímpica (The Olympic Sky Blue)
US Virgin Islands
The Dashing Eagle
The Dashing Eagle is the American symbol of power and grace, transformed to embody the unique optimism, flair, and self-determination of the islands.
The Stars and Stripes
Other names that are used are Team USA and The Yanks. There does not appear to be an official name.
White Wolves (Oq boสปrilar/Oา ะฑั pะธะปap)
also sometimes known as Terma Jamoasi, meaning “the National Team” in Uzbek.
the Men in Black and Gold
meaning “the Burgundies” in Spanish - because of the burgundy color of their shirts. They are also know by the names Los Llaneros (The Plainsmen) and La Remolacha Mecanica (The Clockwork Beet).
“the National Team” in Vietnamese. Other names used are: Những chiến binh đỏ (The Red Warriors) and Ngôi sao vàng (The Golden Star).
Al Yemen al Saeed
“Happy Yemen” in Arabic
The Copper Bullets (in Bemba). The word comes from the copper mines in Kitwe. The team was formerly known as the KK 11, after the founding president Kenneth Kaunda, but changed the nickname in 1993.
In wrapping up
Every name, be it personal or nickname, of anyone or anything, tells something about its owner (society/individual) or the namer. Thus, the nicknames tell something about people’s identities and what is most treasured about them.
All the nicknames listed in this post clearly convey some (needed or preferred) attributes of the respective teams.
However, these nicknames do not always reflect the performance of the teams in question but rather merely express the desires of the fans.
Also, the nicknames seem to be used in order to bond fans with respective teams which in turn are used to express the pride and patriotism that fans associate with their respective nations.
This is done by identifying one or two national symbolic emblems which are then adapted to nickname a team.
In so doing, fans are not only showing pride in a nation but also identifying a team as a symbol representing the nation.
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This article was most recently revised and updated 8 months ago