National Football Team Nicknames | Origins and the Story Behind Them
Avid football fans don’t always call their favourite team by its full name. Most of the time, an average football viewer refers to their team by its nickname. You have probably heard commentators do the same as they want to spice up their broadcast a bit and make it interesting for the people watching at home.
To tell the truth, it really does sound fascinating to hear all the ingenious national football team nicknames. In the wake of competitions such as the 2024 AFCON, the Asian Cup, and the Euro 2024, there are going to be a lot of funny nicknames for football teams thrown around.
Our idea is to get you ready because how else are you going to know who are the Lions of Teranga?
England – The Three Lions
Probably the most recognisable nickname in football is that of the English national team. The England national football team nickname is the Three Lions. It has been since their first game played against Scotland in 1872. The team got the nickname because of the Football Association’s logo. It dawns three lions stacked upon each other dotted with red roses.
The three lions are actually synonymous with England as way back in the XII century. Soldiers used to carry flags with golden lions on them. They inspired the warriors in battle and brought them good fortune. Later on, the royal family started adopting the lion as their simple and began wearing them as their crest. With King Henry I being one of the pioneers to do so.
Brazil – A Seleção
The national team with the most World Cup trophies, Brazil, carries the name A Seleção. This is actually a common term in the Portuguese language. It translates to “selection” or “selected players.” The Brazilians actually call a lot of teams this way. But people distinguish the national team by calling it A Seleção, or The Selecao.
However, there are more Brazil national football team names that they use. The most common and interesting is Canarinho, which translates to “Little Canary.” It is a species of bird native to Brazil known for its vivid yellow colour. And which colour jerseys does the Brazilian national team play in?
Italy – Gli Azzurri
One of the most recognisable football jerseys in the world is that of the Italian national football team. You know what it looks like, it is completely blue and has been since 1910 when the team wore the colours for the first time. Hence the name Gli Azzurri, which simply translates as “The Blues.”
However, many people remain confused about the choice of colour. The national flag of Italy does not have blue in it. Green, white, and red are the colours that go in order on the flag. Yet the team has never used any of those colours as a symbol of the national team.
The origin of using the colour blue is in honour of the royal house of Savoy. It unified the nation in the XIX century, as they carried the regal blue colour as their symbol.
Argentina – La Albiceleste
Despite what you thought, there are not a lot of Argentina national football team names. Even though different ones do exist, the one that has stuck the most is the simplest one – La Albiceleste. It translates from Spanish as “sky blue.” It is the colour depicted on the Argentine flag as well as the jerseys that the players wear.
Manuel Belgrano adopted the blue colour when creating the original Argentine flag. It was raised for the first time in Rosario during the Argentine War of Independence. The flag did change from then, as it became a triband, with two sky blue stripes and a single white one, with a symbol of a golden Sun placed in the middle.
Australia – Socceroos
The Australian football team may not be the best outside Oceania and Asia, but they sure have one of the most recognisable national football team nicknames – The Socceroos. The explanation is simple: The term draws the words Soccer and Kangaroo together into one. Since the national animal of Australia is the kangaroo, and they are playing soccer, why not bring the two words together in unanimous harmony?
The story says that Tony Horstead, a journalist based out of Sydney, was the first one to come up with the term. It was prior to the team’s tour of Vietnam in 1967. The name stuck and remained so ever since.
Senegal – Lions of Teranga
Most people who are not familiar with the culture of Senegal or its national heritage wouldn’t understand the meaning of the national team’s nickname. The Lions of Teranga does sound menacing, but at its core has a completely different meaning. Teranga is actually a word in their native language, Wolof, and it roughly translates to “hospitality.”
The phrase is something that symbolises the way of living in Senegal, but also goes a little bit deeper, which cannot directly be translated. As far as the lions go, Senegal is a natural habitat for them. Even though their numbers have dwindled in recent years, it is still the national animal of the country.
Spain – La Furia Roja
Most Spanish sports selections carry the name La Furia Roja. Most people would think this is because of the people’s fiery attitude and the colour of their jerseys. But the origin is actually quite different.
La Furia Roja, or the Red Fury as it translates into English, refers to an event in Spain’s military history known as the Sack of Antwerp. It is an episode that happened during the Eighty Years’ War. It marks one of the greatest massacres in the history of the Low Countries.
France – Les Bleus
The French national football team is often referred to as Les Tricolores or Les Bleus. While the later term is the one which commentators and fans prefer more, both originate from the nation’s traditional symbols. The French flag consists of three colours – Blue, white, and red.
However, unlike the Italians, the French refer to themselves as Les Bleus or the Blues. Precisely because of the blue colour on their flag. It is not only the nickname of their football team. But all French sports teams have the same nickname.
Jamaica – Reggae Boyz
The Jamaican football national team may not be the strongest in the world. They played only once at the World Cup, which was back in 1998 in France. Nevertheless, the Jamaicans probably have one of the most interesting nicknames of all national football teams nicknames.
Simply dubbed the Reggae Boyz, the name comes from the reggae culture that the island is known for. The most popular reggae artist, Bob Marley, was an avid football fan and used to play regularly himself. The national team owes it to him to carry the name of the culture he represented the most.
South Africa – Bafana Bafana
The name of the South African football team originates from the Zulu language. Bafana Bafana literally translates to English as “the boys, the boys.” However, football in South Africa went through a lot of turmoil. The national team even got suspended for a period due to apartheid.
The nickname of the team emerged a long time ago, during the 1800s, during the inception of football in South Africa. After the hiatus that lasted between 1976 and 1991 and the end of apartheid, the South African football team was re-administered into FIFA. Allowing the team to finally participate in official international games after almost two decades.
Scotland – The Tartan Terriers
Football fans in Scotland are as passionate about football as are those in England. Unfortunately, the Tartan Terriers have played in two World Cups so far. They remain one of the weaker teams on FIFA’s list. But it does not stop them from having some of the wildest and most loyal fans out there.
The team’s nickname, the Tartan Terriers, is drawn from the national clothing that dates back to Highlander times. The tartan pattern is a symbol of Scotland as well as every individual family. Each clan had its own tartan pattern, which made them recognisable among the rest. As far as the fan base, people often call the Scottish fans the Tartan Army. They follow the Terriers as loyally as possible.