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.