AFCON 2013... it's a zoo!
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
South Africans are used to the 'Big Five' which are the 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 these shores for the second time. The first was in 1996 and Bafana Bafana came out on top.
Why animals, you may ask? Well, a look at the nicknames of African national teams shows an affinity to animals.
This usually gives sub-editors and the creatives a helluva time with headlines just like the Currie Cup where you will read headlines such Lions maul Bulls... Bulls gore Lions... Cheetahs outrun Lions... and so on.
God help us we don’t see a headline Sharks maul Bafana following the opening match at the National Stadium on January 19.
You see, Bafana’s first opponents, Cape Verde, are known as the Blue Sharks.
The other animals in Group A are The Black Antelopes (Palancas Negras) of Angola while the Lions of the Atlas as Morocco are known, complete the group.
Angola are one of three types of antelopes that will descend on us. The two others are Niger who is known as Mena, a species of antelope and Ethiopia who are called the Wayla Antelopes.
Group B should also be a pleasure for headline writers, as, except for west African football giants, Ghana, who are known as The Black Stars (maybe they will also later assume their 2010 Soccer World Cup nickname of Bagana Bagana which they adopted after the home side was knocked out) are the only team not named after an animal.
Mali are The Eagles, Niger (Mena) and the DR Congo are the Leopards. So we should see many headlines about leopards and their spots as well as lions mauling or devouring somebody in this group.
Reigning champions, Zambia, who lead Group C, also provide some relief from animalisation as they are known as Chipolopolo
which translates to The Copper Bullets.
Otherwise there will be a lot of animals doing whatever to other animals as Nigeria are the Super Eagles, Burkina Faso The Stallions and Ethiopia the Wayla antelopes.
Group D pits The Desert Warriors (Algeria) against the Elephants of Ivory Coast and two bird species - The Eagles of Carthage or Carthage Eagles as Tunisia are known and The Sparrow hawks of Togo.
Bafana Bafana were nearly known as one of the animals as well, but it was thanks to the Sowetan who gave them their current name.
There was a lot of resistance though, with some newspapers and scribes suggesting name such as The Zebras (which would not have worked in any case as Botswana already own that nickname) and Golden Foxes.
So while some people have complained about the Bafana Bafana nickname not being as intimidating to their opponents as The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and The Super Eagles of Nigeria, I still maintain, just as The Bard, William Shakespeare once opined, a rose by any other name, still smells just the same.
Whether you have an intimidating nickname or not, whether you are named after dangerous animal or not, the quality of players you have, will always prevail.
Cameroon are not in this year's tournament, The Pharaohs of Egypt are not here. Maybe it’s time for Bafana Bafana - whom coach Gordon Igesund has dubbed “The Dream Team” - to shine.
To all animals, those that are equal and those that are 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 currently
City Press Sports Editor.
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