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The Beautiful Game: Jerseys and Nicknames

May 27, 2010

Soccer, known as “The Beautiful Game,” is aesthetically pleasing as the game itself. This is epitomized in the World Cup every four year with countries and supporters from all the corners of the world, each with their own personality. Such differences also tend to lead neutral observers to adopting a squad of their own (in addition to their home country, of course.) The first thing anybody sees when the teams come out of the tunnel and onto the pitch are their jerseys (more properly known as their kits). While Nike, Adidas, Puma, among other manufacturers, continue to tinker with this aspect of the game, most countries’ kits are truly identifiable (including my own favorite kit). Like their club counterparts, national teams also have “nicknames” that they are known by that their supports embrace. Here’s my favorites with a little history and an elimination game (of sorts), respectively:

Best Kit: Netherlands – The brilliant orange top pays homage to the Dutch founding father William of Orange, who led the revolt against the Spanish in the 17th century that eventually led to the country’s independence. No color so defines a nation’s squad or supporters quite like the Netherland’s orange. The 1970s saw the country reach their only two finals in the World Cup (both defeats to Germany and Argentina, respectively) and the dawn of the nickname: Clockwork Orange (also a pretty good movie). Their nickname is simply Oranje (obviously orange in Dutch). One thing that I don’t get, however, is this year’s strip which includes black shorts (Last time I checked the Netherlands’s colors were red, white, blue, and orange. Not black.)

Best Nickname: Indomitable Lions (Cameroon) – I’m just going to say Africa (with the nicknames reflected in the respective kits) and both Oceania sides (I’m a rugby guy so I like the symmetry between New Zealand’s rugby’s All Blacks and soccer’s All White) have the best nicknames and it’s not really close. I’m going to eliminate Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand because they’re baseless, redundant, and racist, respectively. Not cool enough. Then I eliminate Algeria because they’re the Desert Foxes which reminds of the Desert Fox himself (Erwin Rommel). Nazism was, is, and will continue to be bad thing. Nigeria’s Super Eagles rips off America (although we’re known as The Yanks) and national bird so they’re gone. While I like The Elephants, the Ivory Coast lacks an intimidating adjective to make the cut. Cameroon’s nickname’s Latin origins (Indomitable Lions) give them the necessary edge over Ghana’s Black Stars.

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