There are some big differences between soccer and the more popular-in-America sports—the game clock counts up, and the “field” is called the “pitch,” for example. One similarity: colorful (if informal) team nicknames. Here are some of the best national team nicknames from around the world.
Orange is the national color of the Netherlands (and its royal family, on account of William the Orange), as well as the shade of the national team’s jerseys. The “Clockwork” part was adopted in the ‘70s, when their method of play called “Total Football,” took off, which included highly precise passing techniques…in other words, the team played “like clockwork.”
One of the best-known names, the English team’s nickname is a reference to the three lions depicted on the country’s coat of arms…as well as the squad’s official crest. The relationship between England and lions goes back to the 12th century reign of King Richard I, or “The Lionheart.”
It’s a portmanteau, or combination of “soccer” and “kangaroos.” An Australian journalist coined the term in 1967, combining when the national soccer team from the homeland of kangaroos went on an exhibition game tour.
The Pirate Ship
Greece hosted the Euro 2004 tournament, in which all the national teams of Europe squared off. During the lavish opening ceremonies, the Greek hosts brought out a huge prop pirate ship, or piratiko. Later in the tourney, a Greek TV commentator said that the local team could eke out a victory only by “stealing one,” or if they were to “become pirates.” (And Greece did, upsetting Portugal to win the whole thing.)
Reggae came from Jamaica, and so the national team proudly calls itself the Reggae Boyz. (For what it’s worth, the Jamaican women’s national team calls itself the Reggae Girlz.)
The soccer-dominating Brazilian national team is known as “Canarinho.” Translated from Portuguese it means “Little Canary,” as the squad wears canary yellow jerseys.
That’s the nickname for Team Mexico, and it’s an abbreviation of el tricolor, or “the three colors.” Those colors are red, white, and green—the colors of Mexico’s flag and its jerseys.
“The Elephants” is certainly an intimidating sports team name, but in its use by the national team of the Ivory Coast, it’s a little dark. It refers to the country’s healthy elephant ivory trade.
Team of the Five
That’s the English version of Portugal’s nickname, Seleccao das Quinas. But wait, there are 11 players on the soccer field at a time. What gives? The team’s crest is adorned with five mighty shields.