Original Articles

Nicknames of South African soccer teams and players as symbols of approbation in a multilingual and multicultural country

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 30, issue 1, 2010, pages: 88–97
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2010.10587339
Author(s): Nobuhle Ndimande-Hlongwa, South Africa


This article deals with the nicknames of South African soccer players and their teams. The nicknames (izidlaliso/izibongelo in isiZulu) are coined by players, supporters and managers of the teams. The nicknames were collected from the weekly South African newspaper entitled Soccer Laduma. More names came from a series of interviews with soccer fans and soccer presenters working for the South African Broadcasting Corporation in the sports section, sports journalists and public relations officers for the soccer clubs. Some nicknames were collected through interviews with students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The focus of this article is the influence of African languages on nicknames in football. This influence reflects the multilingual nature of South Africa as a ‘rainbow nation’. Nicknames of soccer players and their teams are derived from various sources, such as the regalia, town where the team originated, reputation of the managers, names of soccer teams, performance of the players as well as the names of wild animals and the team's hope and fighting spirit. The article looks at the derivation and functions of the nicknames of soccer players and their teams and finally concludes that these nicknames are symbols of approval in a multilingual and multicultural country.

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