The nicknames of the 24 National teams participating at the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt might not sound crazy as that of some football clubs in Europe but a few can evoke expressions of awe, astonishment, and bewilderment from sports enthusiasts who stumble on these names.
Nicknames most time when chosen are based on the name of the club, area where the club is located, logo, and influence by players or fans of the club. It could also be dependent on the local industry prevalent where the club is situated or the club’s home strip colour(s).
It seems African national teams have the best thought out nicknames compared to hundreds of football teams around the world.
African national football teams and their passionate supporters attach a great deal of emotion and significance to their team’s nicknames.
Will you believe an African senior male national team is referred to as The Squirrels? I mean grown-ups all described as squirrels. Now, do not take that personal. There was a reason.
Nicknames of National Teams Participating in AFCON 2019
Benin – Les Ecureuils
The nickname of the Benin male national team, Les Ecureuils, when translated into English means “The Squirrels.” The squirrel is the Native American symbol for preparation, trust, and thriftiness. Was that why it was chosen for the West African team?
Maybe or not. Squirrels are among the prevalent animals in Benin. According to BBC, The Squirrels tag was coined in the 1960s – apparently, because it evoked a small animal which can climb high but how high has the Francophone country climbed?
Benin have never qualified for the FIFA World Cup and have only played in three African Cup of Nations in 2004, 2008 and 2010 and have not won any. Your guess is good as mine – not high enough.
The Benin Football Federation (FBF) seem to have realized the nickname wasn’t evocative and respectable and have since been in the process of getting a new nickname. In October, 2018, Benin striker, Steve Mounie suggested The Pythons to the FBF considering the snake is admired and equally is been used as a symbol in the country.
Another unbelievable nickname is “The Prostraters”. You might want to argue no African country holds this nickname. Well, opposition fans or home fans can popularize a nickname.
The Egyptian senior men national team is popularly known as the Pharaohs and also carries the name of “Prostraters”, since players usually celebrate their victory with prostration. This was clear during the previous AFCON editions in 2006, 2008, and 2010.
This nickname, Pharaohs is basically related to the ancient Egyptians. Pharaohs were powerful Egyptian kings and queens who were worshipped as gods on earth, made great achievements, like building the Pyramids which are one of the world’s wonders. It is fitting that the Egyptian football team, one of the best teams in Africa, share a name with the rulers of the North-African country. Egypt has achieved more success than any other team in the Africa Cup of Nations, lifting the trophy seven times in total, the most recent of which was in 2010.
South Africa “Bafana Bafana”
Bafana Bafana is Zulu language and literally translates to The Boys. The Boys was a term coined by three Sowetan sports journalists and was used to refer to the national team. According to, Pero Meselco suggested the nickname as a reflection of youth. At first, football officials were not excited since the name did not represent strong braveness; however, it grew in popularity, and has since become the way the side is affectionately referred to.
In June 2011, the South African Football Association (SAFA) paid R5 million (approximately NGN 124.9 million) to Stanton Woodrush for the rights to own the name Bafana Bafana, after the company registered the name as a brand in 1993.
Nigeria “Super Eagles”
This is arguably the most well-known nickname on the African continent. Nigeria’s nickname pays homage to the eagle in its Coat of Arms. Previously known as the Green Eagles, the name was changed following a controversial loss to Cameroon in the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations final. The Super Eagles have won the Africa Cup of Nations three times – in 1980, 1994 and 2013.
Cote d’Ivoire “Elephants”
The name Elephants reflects gigantic nature and strength. Elephants were the most prevalent animals in Cote d’Ivoire in the past.
Due to the country’s roaring 19th-century ivory trade, the elephant is seen as the national animal of the Ivory Coast, and is represented in the country’s Coat of Arms. Despite their strength on the football field, and a list of big names such as Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, and Emmanuel Eboue, the Elephants have only won the Africa Cup of Nations twice, once in 1992 and again in 2015.
Cameroon “The Indomitable Lions”
Indomitable perfectly describes the Cameroonian men’s national football team. They are impossible to subdue and are extremely difficult to defeat. Named after the king of the jungle, Cameroon was affectionately known as the Lions until they finished third at the 1972 AFCON on home soil. In a bid to revive national pride, then-president Ahmadou Ahidjo renamed the team the Indomitable Lions.
With five AFCON titles to their name and a long list of big names who have represented the nation, the Indomitable Lions promise to be a dominating force in African football for years to come.
Senegal “Lions of Teranga”
Teranga means hospitality. Teranga is not just a title, but a reflection of the nature of the Senegalese people who receive their guests with open arms, and allow them to enter their homes, meet their family members, and talk about their lives, religion, culture, and their own personal ideas.
Lions are known for their braveness and for such the Senegalese senior national team also want to be known.
Morocco “Atlas Lions”
This nickname came from the Atlantic mountains which pass through Morocco.
Tunisia “Carthage Eagles”
Carthage is the cradle of the Tunisian civilization and the capital of the ancient Phoenician state. This nickname was chosen to mirror their strength and speed while referring to the civilization of Carthage.
Algeria “Desert Fighters”
The Algerian national team has several nicknames: Desert Foxes, Desert Fighters, and The Greens. The nickname is inspired by the desert fox which lives in North Africa and some parts of the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia.
The Mauritanian national team is nicknamed “Almoravid”, to Almoravid dynasty which was an imperial Berber Muslim dynasty emerged in the 5th and 6th AH in the Islamic Maghreb region. Mauritania will be participating in the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in its history.
Guinea “National Elephants”
The Guinean men’s senior national team is known as Syli Nationale which means “National Elephants”. In their culture, the elephant is a symbol of strength and unity.
Kenya “Harambee Stars”
The team is nicknamed “Harambee Stars”. In old times, stars were considered a good omen and a way to drive out bad people.
Angola “Sable Antelopes”
Angola’s national team was nicknamed Sable Antelopes as they are the prevalent animals in the tropical jungles across Angola.
Ghana “Black Stars”
Their nickname originated from the black star that sits in the middle of the Ghanaian national flag. The Ghanaian Football Association decided to adopt the nickname as they believed that it would foster unity in the country. Despite winning four AFCON titles, the Black Stars have struggled in recent years. The last time they lifted the AFCON trophy was in 1982.
The Madagascar national football team is nicknamed Barea. Berea a species of Zebu that is depicted on the country’s coat of arms. They will be taking part in their first Africa Cup of Nations at Egypt.
Full List of Nicknames of National Teams Participating in AFCON 2019
|Algeria||The Desert Foxes|
|Angola||Giant Sable Antelopes|
|Burundi||The Chayfs (The Swallows)|
|Cameroon||The Indomitable Lions|
|DR Congo||The Leopards|
|Ivory Coast||The Elephants|
|Mauritania||Lions of Chinguetti|
|South Africa||Bafana Bafana|
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