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Naming & Shaming

Nicknames have long been a favourite of football fans and supporters the world over.

Some are literal, based on a player’s former profession and former Zimbabwe international Tauya “Doctor” Murehwa, who studied medicine, falls into this category. Some are based on a player’s position and Tinashe “The General” Nengomasha, who was the midfield commander for Kaizer Chiefs for many years, would be such a player. Others are a combination of literal and positional such as Benedict “Little Napoleon” Vilakazi who is small of stature and dictates the midfield for his team.

Further examples of the literal moniker are South African Mark Fish, who played for Orlando Pirates and Charlton Athletic amongst others, and went by the unmistakable “Feeesh” when he played. The folically challenged Matthew Booth is another player whose nickname “Booooth” is easy to pick out when he has the ball. The self-explanatory Jerry “Legs of Thunder” Skhosana was a fearsome striker for Orlando Pirates.

Central midfielders are the organisers of most teams as they assist in breaking up play in defence and launch attacks into the opposition half and the militaristic term “The General” is an appropriate moniker. Aside from the afore-mentioned Nengomasha, Teko Modise is also known as “The General” or “The Navigator” for his ability to direct the play. Another Zimbabwean great was George “Mastermind” Shaya who was renowned for his vision. Linda Buthelezi was also known as “Mercedes Benz” due to his efficient and non-nonsense style of play in the centre of the park.

Good defenders are often characterised by the barrier that they put up against opposing strikers. Zimbabwean defender Ephraim Chawanda was known as the “Rock of Gibraltar” for this reason. Another Zimbabwean great was Henry “Bully” McKop due to his habit of bullying opposition players off the ball and returning possession to his team. Another defender known for organising his defence and providing stability was Gavin “Stability Unit” Lane of Orlando Pirates.

Strikers are typically those players at the top of the footballing food chain, known for silencing opposition supporters and therefore comparisons to predators or hunters abound. South Africans Katlego “Killer” Mphela and Thembinkosi “Terror” Fanteni are good examples of this. Former Zimbabwe forward Wilfred “Silver Fox” Mugeyi was so named because of his habit of stealing in stealthily behind defences to pounce and score.

In some instances nicknames are created to mock certain players such as Bongani “Model C” Khumalo, a reference to a person who attended a “posh” school and speaks “proper” English. Another in this mould is Kaizer Motaung Junior who was awarded the nickname “Ponds”, in reference to his habit of wearing sunscreen lotion a la Allan Donald. The aesthetically-challenged Reneilwe Letsholonyane has been rather cruelly tagged “Scary Movie”.

The nicknames that live longest in the memory, however, are those ones that are derived from a combination of events and levels of skill displayed by a player that are adopted by the supporters of a club.

Doctor “16 Valve” Khumalo obtained his nickname as a result of his style of play being as smooth as the “it” car of his heyday, the Toyota Corolla 16V. Midfielder Arthur Zwane was nicknamed “10111”, which is the emergency services number in South Africa.

Midfield maestro Moses Chunga was nicknamed “Razorman” because of his ability to slice defences open with his visionary through balls. Mercedes “John Rambo” Sibanda was renowned for his marauding runs down the right flank and his lethal right foot.

Another former Zimbabwean international Lazarus Muhoni attained the nickname “Mali” as he scored the qualifying goal for his country against Mali in an AFCON qualifier.

There are even more players with some excellent nicknames, the origins of which I am unsure of. Zimbabwean players such as Kenneth “Computer” Jere, Vitalis “Digital” Takawira, Joel “Jubilee” Shambo, David “Diaspora” Kutyauripo, Japhet “Short Cat” Mparutsa and Method “Yellow” Mwanjali.

South Africa also has its fair share of players with great nicknames like Leslie “Slow Poison” Manyathela, Thomas “Who’s Fooling Who” Hlongwane, Andrew “Jaws of Life” Rabutla, Jethro “Lovers” Mohlala and Jabu “Lost & Found” Pule.

Although English football fans are able to create some witty (and in some instances downright insulting) songs for their players, the modern football players’ nicknames, by contrast, largely appear to be fairly unimaginative. The most popular derivatives being to add an “a”, “o” or a “y” to the end of a player’s name such as Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne, Wayne “Wazza/Roo” Rooney, Frank “Lamps” Lampard, John “JT” Terry, Jamie “Carra” Carragher, Steven “Stevie G” Gerrard, Ryan “Giggsy” Giggs and Paul “Scholesy” Scholes.

The above are merely skimming the surface in terms of the nicknames out there. If you can shed any light on the origins of the nicknames mentioned above, please feel free to elaborate.

Also add some of your favourite player nicknames as well.

About Ticha Pfupajena

I'm beginning to get the sense that my career as a professional footballer may not happen. As a result, I'll try write about football and sports instead....


21 thoughts on “Naming & Shaming

  1. My favourite, the reliable and charismatic…Bruce “Jungleman” Grobbelaar – famed for being ‘everwhere’, including in the opposition D trying to score goals…

    Posted by Sanjay Naran | 27/07/2011, 12:32
  2. Darren “sick note” Anderton

    Posted by buffdaddy | 27/07/2011, 16:18
  3. You forgot wing nut!

    Posted by Mike S | 27/07/2011, 16:19
  4. While not as imaginative, Gazza is such a legendary nickname. I played rugby with a guy who they called Gazza my Nazza and i had no idea why till i discovered its original owner was Paul Gascione, it totally made sense after that.

    Other awesome nicknames have to be: Zinedine “Zizou” Zidane, Wardrobe, Benjani “Undertaker” Mwaruwari, “Chicharito” Hernandez, Steven “Skilo ” Peinaar, Peter “The flying Elephant” Ndlovhu.

    In fact, i think the in the line up of Zimbabwe’s Dream Team there included some gems when it came to football nicknames.

    Posted by D Rock | 28/07/2011, 10:15
  5. I think you’ll find that Kenneth “Computer” Jere and Digital were nicknamed in the late 80s and early 90s when computers were all still new and then the term computer implied someone who could bamboozle someone just like the computer did to most people

    Posted by Tafadzwa | 01/08/2011, 14:37
  6. Park Park wherever you may be…although they do not offer us much in nicknames, the Brits do know how to create a catchy war cry!!!

    Posted by Gus | 03/08/2011, 13:18
  7. You cant forget the most promising player of all time: Luis ‘El Pistolero’ Suarez.

    And the LFC legend John ‘Digger’ Barnes. I’ve always known he’s had this nickname but i never knew why…Apparently its after a character named Digger Barnes from the TV show Dallas.

    Posted by Dave Big Starsky | 03/08/2011, 13:22
  8. I especially enjoy the Spanish nicknames:

    Luis “El Pistolero” Suarez (the Gunslinger),

    Fernando “El Nino” Torres (the little boy)- modern: a w**nker,Judas.

    Carlos “El Tarzan” Puyol (self explanatory really),

    Juan “La Brujita” Veron (the little witch) and

    Jonathon “El Inspector” Spector (probably couldn’t come up with anything better).

    Posted by Tino 'El Rainmaker' Chaza | 03/08/2011, 13:46
  9. What about Dennis “The non flying Dutchman” Bergkamp, named for his fear of flying!

    Posted by James 'Jimmy Westside' Midlane | 04/08/2011, 06:31
    • Great article Tich. Some that I can think off as well are:

      Wellington ‘Umuntu akalahlwa’ Manyathi. ….that troublesome rough-tackling ex-chiefs midfielder
      Noel ‘Phinda Mzala’ Cousins….cousin is Mzala in Nguni…..and he was named in reference to Stimela’s hit single from the 80s,’Whispers in the deep’ which had the words ‘Phinda Mzala’ as a chorus

      Johannes ‘bricks’ Mudau….he was supposed to be a defensive wall alongside Lucas Radebe at Chiefs back in the day
      Marks ‘go man go’ Maponyane,the speedy ex-chiefs and Pirates goal getter
      Helman ‘the midnight express’ Mkhalele,named after a speedy train
      A recent nickname, Tlou ‘Gautrain’ Segolela,speedy winger of Orlando Pirates
      The late Patrick ‘ace’ Ntsoelengoe,one of SA’s greatest ever midfield schemers
      Knowledge ‘the smiling assassin’ Musona the Zim/ex Chiefs striker who is true to his nickname
      Collins ‘ntofontofo’ Mbesuma…the bulky,deadly Zambian goal scorer who broke the SA records….ntofontofo was a quaito hit at the same time as Mbesuma hottest streak of form….the word means ‘soft’ In reference to the Zambian’s chubbiness

      Lionel ‘la pulga atomica-the atomic flea’ Messi
      Lerato ‘all you need is love’ Shabangu of Bafana and Swallows…Lerato is Tswana for love
      Aaron ‘Mbazo-the Axe’ Mokoena

      Posted by Zuko | 20/10/2012, 01:11
  10. “lost & found” pule has to be one of my favourites up there. that oke went awol like 5 times in the space a few years ago

    Posted by Ollie | 04/08/2011, 07:23
  11. Well done. Will try to get you someone to buy tour articles.

    Posted by Rose Pfupajena | 04/08/2011, 13:51
  12. I thought Paul Scholes nicknamed ‘GINGER NINJA’?

    Posted by Andrew | 11/05/2012, 12:42

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