Friday, 7 September 2012

Brazilian Youngsters Play Name Game... And Lose

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.


  1. Actually, you're missing the cultural aspect of comics and cartoons, which is where alot of brazilians get their nicknames. So salsicha would be Shaggy from Scooby Doo.

    having said that, you're spot on!!!! My cleaning lady's son is Jefferson, and his child Washington... I asked if thy were fans of the US, but they couldn't even tell me the capital.

    Don't forget the Rock'n'rollers... John lennon, Harisson, and my fav Creedence Clearwater who used to play for Guarani.


    1. ALSO: Salsicha is a hot dog weenie, not a sausage... that would be Linguiça which is another great footballing name.

    2. Ah, didn't know salsicha was Shaggy!

      Knew the difference between Linguiça and Salsicha, but it doesn't translate well to (UK) English... a 'weenie' would still be a sausage.

      John Lennon and Creedence Clearwater - cracking examples, definitely on the list of non-Copinha names!

  2. Absolutely fantastic, Jack! This post made me laugh more than once... And it was also a confirmation to why I love Brazil and futebol so much. :)

  3. thanks for sharing.

  4. Being football the social escalating tool that it is around here, it's very common to see names like that. Poor families often see a name they like on TV, and there it goes to the birth certificate. But the Copinha is surely outstanding in this respect. A lot of these names will never be seen again in the future, (un)fortunately.

    But there are examples the other way around too: take São Paulo's (and soon to be PSG's) Lucas - he was called by his nickname, "Marcelinho", because of the resemblance with Marcelinho Carioca, ex-Corinthians. In his first games he actually wore a shirt with the nickname on, but chose to adopt his birth name to the rest of his career. Maybe, if his name was WBERLAN, the nickname wouldn't be that bad...

    Excellent blog, mate. Congrats from Brazil.