Angolans go crazy for nicknames

Updated: June 19, 2006, 2:28 AM ET
Associated Press

CELLE, Germany -- Most people think Angola defender Loco got his name because he goes mad when he gets on the soccer field.

That's crazy!

The story behind his nickname, which means "crazy" in Spanish, is much more tame, and it started when he was only 9 years old and playing soccer in the working class Sambizanga district of Luanda.

"The other kids said I played football in the same style as Paris Saint-Germain player Patrice Loco," Loco said. "So everyone in the neighborhood started calling me Loco and the name stuck. It's become normal."

Loco (Manuel Cange) isn't the only player representing Angola at this year's World Cup who has a nickname.

Lama (Luis Mamona Joao) got his because he admired former France goalkeeper Bernard Lama.

"When they took me to do a test to join Petro de Luanda, they presented me as Lama because I liked him so much and that was that," the goalkeeper said. "I like the fact people call me that, it gives me strength. When you use the name of someone who is good at what they do, you have to be good, too."

In Brazil, most players use a nickname, like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka and Dida. Some of Portugal's players, like Deco, also do it.

All three countries speak Portuguese, and in Angola, which is still recovering from a 27-year civil war that started after it gained independence from Portugal in 1975, Brazilian soap operas have strengthened the nation's cultural links with the South Americans.

"It's a custom that is really quite normal in our country, especially in the poor neighborhoods where slang rules," said Angola forward Love (Arsenio Sebastiao Cabungula), who got his name because of his close relationship with his mother.

"People always called me 'Amor," Love said. "Then a friend who spoke English translated it into 'Love' and now that's my name. Everyone calls me that and I like it."

The nicknames of the players are so prevalent back home that local fans requested they wear them on the back of their shirts because they were having trouble recognizing them. At the African Cup of Nations earlier this year, they finally got their way and the practice looks like it will stick.

"My real name is Luis Manuel Fereira Delgado, but everyone's been calling me Delgado since I was a kid," the 26-year-old defender said. "In Angola, it's really common to go by a nickname, maybe because Portuguese names tend to be really long."

The fashion for nicknames in Angola is not reserved only for soccer players.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is widely known as "Zedu," and the prime minister goes by the name of "Nando" rather than his full name Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos.

Still, not everyone on Angola's national soccer team got a nickname as a result of a specific personal characteristic.

Just ask Jamba (Joao Pereira), whose name means Elephant in Umbundu, a language spoken in southern Angola.

"In my tradition in the south of the country, when you have twins, the boy has to be called Jamba and the girl has to be called Cassinda," the defender said.

"In Benguela, 80 percent of male twins are called Jamba. In other parts of Angola, some are called Adam and Eve, and the Bakongo (an ethnic group from northern Angola) call them Simba and Nzogi."

Angola, which is making its debut at the World Cup, held Mexico to a 0-0 draw Friday in Group D, keeping alive its chances of advancing.

However unlikely, if things keep going their way, the Black Antelopes could end up with the nickname "World Champions."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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