What’s in a name? It depends which country you’re in. In Brazil, the answer is commonly 'hilarity'. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than at the Copa São Paulo (known colloquially as the Copinha), the country’s premier youth football tournament. This year’s competition boasted some of the most improbable monikers ever to grace the football world.
First came the nicknames. Culinary triumvirate Bananinha (little banana), Salsicha (sausage) and Marcelo Pastel (Marcelo pastry) were early pace-setters, but were soon usurped in the improbability stakes. Pangaré (mule) established himself as a contender, but he too was quickly blown out of the water by an 18-year-old from João Pessoa. Whoever decided that Thiago Alves de Sousa should be known as Bactéria is both heartless and an absolute genius.
Elsewhere, given names reflected the Brazilian obsession with Anglophone (and particularly American) culture. Among the savage transliterations of of English names were Jeyson, Jhon Cley, Valkenedy and Walis. Head and shoulders above all comers in this subgroup, however, was the immaculately named Olliver Gulliver of Atlético Acreano.
Other names were notable simply for their disrespect for linguistic norms. The likes of Anykson, Deusdante, Edjostenes, Gilmarx, Hukerlysson, Jaiellyson, Kerlyson, Nickthiell, Swillames, Wberlan and Weriklleyes look bad enough in English, but (trust me on this) are utter monstrosities in Portuguese. It took me a good few minutes to work out how to even pronounce Wberlan.
The Copinha did, however, highlight the esteem in which football legends (both Brazilian and European) are held. Charles Miller, the man who introduced the game to Brazil in 1894, now has a 17-year-old namesake playing for Fortaleza, whilst Americano-MA boasted a Roberto Baggio in their squad. The tournament also stood out for its 15 Romários (or Romarinhos), one of whom is the son of old baixinho himself.
Finally, we come to the best category of all: misspelt names. This year’s Copa São Paulo included touching tributes to Dutch legends Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit. The resulting names – Raikard and Rudigullithi – are nothing if not loveably erroneous. The icing on the cake, however, came in the shape of Cruzeiro youngster Lynneeker. I’ll let you work that one out.
Versions of this article appeared in FourFourTwo magazine and on The Guardian's Sport Network blog.