Afcon is going to get wild

2013-01-05 00:00

SOUTH Africans are used to the “Big Five”— elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and the endangered rhino.

However, from January 19 to February 10, the country will be invaded by all sorts of animals from the continent.

This is for the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations finals that will be played in South Africa for the second time. The first was in 1996 where Bafana came out on top.

Why animals, you may ask?

Well, the nicknames of African national teams show an affinity with animals.

This usually gives sub-editors creative possibilities with headlines for Currie Cup reports, like “Lions maul Bulls”, “Bulls gore Lions”, “Cheetahs outrun Lions” and so on.

Let’s hope we don’t see the headline “Sharks mutilate Bafana” following the opening match at the National Stadium on January 19, given that South Africa’s first opponents, Cape Verde, are known as the Blue Sharks.

Also in Group A are the Black Antelopes (Palancas Negras) of Angola and the Lions of the Atlas, as Morocco are known.

Two other types of antelopes will gallop on to our fields — Niger’s Mena, and Ethiopia’s Wayla Antelopes.

Group B should offer plenty of opportunities for headline writers, except, perhaps, for West African football giants Ghana, who are known as the Black Stars, but maybe they will assume their 2010 football World Cup nickname of Bagana Bagana, which they adopted after the home side were knocked out.

Nigeria are the Super Eagles, Mali are the Eagles, Democratic Republic of Congo are the Leopards and Burkina Faso the Stallions.

Reigning champions, Zambia, who lead Group C, are known as Chipolopolo, which translates to the Copper Bullets.

Group D pits the Desert Warriors (Algeria) against the Elephants of Ivory Coast and the Eagles of Carthage, as Tunisia are known, and the Sparrow Hawks of Togo.

Bafana Bafana (“the boys”) were given their name by the Sowetan newspaper. But there was a lot of resistance with some scribes suggesting they be called and Golden Foxes or the Zebras, which would not have worked in any case because Botswana already own that nickname.

So, while “Bafana” might not have as intimidating a ring as Cameroon’s “Indomitable Lions” or Nigeria’s “Super Eagles”, I still hold to the immortal words of the Bard: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Whether you have an intimidating nickname or whether you are named after a dangerous animal, the quality of players will always prevail.

Cameroon are not in this year’s tournament, neither are the Pharaohs of Egypt. Perhaps it’s the time of Bafana Bafana — whom coach Gordon Igesund has dubbed “the Dream Team” — to shine.

For all the animals, those that are equal and those more equal than others, let the games begin.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is the sports editor of City Press.

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