Perhaps the most popular of all football monikers is Pele or the Black Pearl, as the greatest footballer of all times, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is known. Winner of three FIFA World Cups, he was latter dubbed O Rei (The King) for this outstanding achievements. Pele was a name the legend picked up in school, though even he wasn’t too clear as to how he got the name! Whatever you call him, he will always be remembered as the ultimate when it comes to football.
If Pele was The King, Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer was The Emperor (Der Kaiser). He dominated world football wearing the number 5 soccer shirt in 1974 and later went on to become the national team’s coach. His teammate was another legend, Gerd Muller, who gained a formidable reputation as The Bomber for his goal scoring capacity – 365 in 427 Bundesliga matches and 68 in 62 international matches!
Carrying on with titles both royal and military, Hungarian Ferenc Puskas, was referred to as The Galloping Major! It was the player’s actual rank as well as his nickname in the Hungarian army team. This three time UEFA Cup winner with Real Madrid was also dubbed the Cañoncito (Little Cannon) by adoring fans. And then, of course, there was Eric ‘The King’ Cantona and ‘Guv’nor’ Paul Ince, who became the first black player to captain England’s national team. Brazilian Adriano Leite Ribeiro, was fondly called L’Imperatore (The Emperor) and even ‘The Bulldozer’ at different points of his prolific career!
Moving on to names more ‘beastly’, who can forget Brazil’s Edmundo, who came to be known as ‘O Animal’ after his exploits on the pitch! Years before him, the dazzling dribbler Garrincha was dubbed Little Bird, and ended his career as The Joy of the People or Alegria do Povo.
Argentinean legend, Maradona, who made the number 10 soccer shirt a much sought after inheritance, began with the nickname Fluffy due to his untidy mop! Thankfully, he didn’t get stuck with the sobriquet, and moved on to an extremely flattering one – The Golden Child or El Pibe de Oro. But when it comes to Diego Maradona can that be enough! He became the only player in the world whose body part has been given a nickname – The Hand of God – after his infamous goal during the 1986 FIFA World Cup!
One of the most interesting pet names by far has to be The Baby Faced Assassin! Norwegian footballer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, spent his best years at Manchester United, where he scored 126 goals, earning him a reputation as The Baby Faced Assassin for his lethal goal scoring skills, matched with his misleading ‘babe in the woods’ look!
These diminutives have become so popular, that most fans don’t even know their favorite players actual names! Actually, their real names are nothing short of confusing. As a diehard football fan would you know Ricardo Leite is our very own Kaka? Didn’t think so! Guess that’s why these nicknames have stuck on the players soccer team shirts… Thank God for that!