I got an email from Magnus Chisom Onwudiwe, a.k.a. “The Humble Apostle of the Sonny Side of Sports,” a devoted disciple of the show who is offering me prayers and safe travel wishes ahead of my first trip to South Africa for World Cup coverage.
The Humble Apostle is also saying a few prayers for “The Super Eagles,” the nickname of Nigeria’s national football team. Magnus is hoping “The Super Eagles” spread their wings and fly high in South Africa. “The Super Eagles” are part of a rich tradition of nicknames in African football.
I’ve always loved those nicknames. Also in South Africa, we’ll see “The Indomitable Lions,” “The Elephants,” and “The Desert Foxes.” If you’re not a follower of African football, you might think you’d be seeing the lions, elephants and foxes on a South African safari, and not on a soccer pitch.
The African team nicknames do not appeal to everyone. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki sparked a national debate when he said the 2010 World Cup host team should consider changing its nickname, “Bafana Bafana,” a Zulu phrase meaning “The Boys, The Boys.” But, the nickname still stands, and when the World Cup officially kicks off on 11 June, most of the vuvuzelas at Soccer City Stadium will be blowing for “Bafana Bafana” when they host “El Tri” of Mexico.