Say My Name, Say My Name

There’s been a bit of delay in writing. Personal bit of turmoil in my life; kept me away from here. So let’s do something fairly simple to get back in the sadlle. Get away from current events for a bit and go to something a little more general: team names. It’s literally the first thing you announce about yourself. It’s what goes in the papers. It’s what goes on the league table. It’s what goes on the silverware. Your more rabid fans might dress themselves up in the style your name suggests.

This wouldn’t be the first team-name origin article out there. Wikipedia’s got a page on it (they have a page for everything). But then, a lot of name-origin articles hit the same clubs over and over. Arsenal’s name coming from the Royal Woolwich Arsenal in London. ‘Dynamo’ clubs signifying a connection to Eastern European secret police, ‘Real’ suggesting an endorsement by Spanish royalty. Nicknames get the same treatment: Stoke City is called the Potters because Stoke-on-Trent has a pottery history behind it; West Ham is the Hammers for being the former works team of an ironworks factory, and a million different clubs carrying nicknames according to their team colors.

So let’s go further afield, shall we?

TRACTOR SAZI (Iran)

How’s that for afield.

Given that this is an Iranian club, you might think that ‘Tractor’ does not actually mean ‘tractor’ in the English sense and is instead some Persian word for something else entirely. Nope. Tractor means tractor. There’s a stylized tractor right there on the logo. Why? Well, they’re owned by a tractor manufacturer, of course: the Iran Tractor Industrial Group. You’ll note how the tractor on the club logo and the one on the corporate logo bear more than a passing resemblance to each other, and match in color as well: red and white. The company is, as you might expect, based in the club’s hometown of Tabriz.

And they’re not even really that Persian. Tabriz is up in extreme northwestern Iran, the capital of a province called East Azerbaijan, and due to their proximity, they end up being the club of Iran’s Azeri diaspora, with some Turkish mixed in for good measure. It’s a fanbase that doesn’t take well off the pitch to the central government’s attempts to enforce Persian cultural mores and suppress the Azerbaijani language from being taught in schools. The tension has resulted in regular spats with the local authorities, especially when Tractor plays in Tehran.

EBUSUA DWARFS (Ghana)

Based out of Cape Coast, Ghana, and formerly carrying the moniker Mysterious Dwarfs, your first reaction is probably to cringe. Don’t. We’re not talking about people with dwarfism. In fact, we are talking about a mythical creature in Ghanaian lore known as a mmoatia. Typically no more than one foot tall, mmoatia are said to be mischievous, if stealing babies is your definition of ‘mischief’. Their feet are on backwards, so as to hinder tracking them in the forest. A mmoatia is also said to be highly knowledgeable of the contents of that forest, so going into the forest and meeting them can easily result in you ending up the village medicine man.

DATE-BASED CLUBS

It’s not that uncommon for a club to simply name itself after a day of the year. Obviously, there’s got to be something that happened on that date:

*Premeiro de Agosto (Angola) gives a pretty bog-standard reason: their date, August 1, is the club’s anniversary, founded on that date in 1977.
*9 de Julio de Morteros (Argentina) gives a secondary bog-standard reason: July 9 is Argentina’s Independence Day, after the day in 1816 that they signed their Declaration of Independence. 12 de Octubre (Paraguay) notes Paraguay’s date of independence from the Spanish Empire, October 12, 1811.
*Knowing about Premeiro de Maio (Angola) requires you to know that Labor Day is not held in September outside the United States. Most countries that have a Labor Day- and there are many- tie it to International Workers’ Day, which is set for May 1, instituted as a response to the Haymarket Riot in Chicago on May 4, 1877, a violent crackdown on a protest advocating for the eight-hour workday. Communist nations such as China, North Korea and the Soviet Union, purporting to celebrate the worker, took it and ran with it, calling it ‘May Day’ and turning it into one of the biggest holidays of the year. After Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975, they promptly aligned with the Eastern Bloc, thereby making May 1 a big day for themselves as well.
*April 25 (North Korea) belongs to the North Korean army, and April 25 is set as Military Foundation Day, as that’s the day in 1932 that Kim Il Sung organized the guerrilla army that would conquer the nation and eventually become the army. Or at least, that’s the day he said he did a thing like that.
*3 de Febrero (Paraguay) is based in Ciudad del Este. Ciudad del Este is the center of Paraguay’s annual celebration of the national patron saint, St. Blaise (San Blas locally). St. Blaise, remembered primarily for treatments of the throat, was martyred in Armenia in 298 AD during a general Christian persecution; one of the miracles that propelled him to sainthood involves successfully praying for a child choking on a fishbone while either being taken away or already in the prison cell where he would await execution (accounts differ because, well, 298 AD).

VEGALTA SENDAI (Japan)

Japanese clubs commonly take their team names from a mashup of two words in some language or other, not necessarily the same language, part of a more general love of wordplay. Vegalta Sendai is a typical example. Sendai is home to the Tanabata festival, celebrating the story of two star-crossed lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi. They’re represented by the stars Vega and Altair, which get smushed together: VEGa, ALTAir. Vissel Kobe, based in a port city, mashes up VIctory and veSSEL. Albirex Niigata, based in a city famous for its swan population, combines Albireo- a star in the Cygnus (Swan) constellation- with ‘rex’, the Latin word for king: ALBIreo, REX. Roasso Kumamoto, which plays in red for home games, mashed up ‘rosso’, the Italian word for red, with ‘asso’, Italian for ace. We could do this all day long.

SUPERSPORT UNITED (South Africa)

Formerly known as Pretoria City, the club was bought in 1994 by domestic TV conglomerate M-Net. Supersport is the name of M-Net’s sports channel. Yes, this is like if ESPN were to buy the New England Revolution and literally rename them ESPN FC. This is exactly like that. Please don’t give them the idea.

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