As young kids playing football, surely each one of us, have imagined and at times have even referred ourselves to these cool sounding Brazilian monikers like Pele, Garrincha, Felipao, Kaka, Ronaldo, Robinho, etc.
But little do we know about the background of how the name came up or it’s importance to that specific player?
These names are an integral part of the Brazilian footballing culture and is simply, a way of differentiating themselves in a football-mad country. What’s even more intriguing is the fact that, most of us never even realized that these nicknames were recognized to such an extent that we as fans never learn the true identities that prettify our Brazilian idols’ birth certificates.
Based on my understanding, most of these names have purely either come about from the surrounding environment they were raised in. Of all the players, Pele’s is whose I found to be most interesting.
The way it came about was when Pele’s father Seu Dondinho, who back in the days was a member of Vasco, was playing alongside Bile (team goalkeeper). During match days, Pele as a kid, whose real name is Edison “Edson” Arantes do Nascimento), would enjoy watching the talented goalkeeper in training, later taking a stab at recreating the keeper’s impressive saves in street kick bouts with his friends. Are you with me or did I lose you?
Well, a wannabe shot-stopper himself as a child, when Edson was in goal he would respond to exceptionally terrific blocks with a shout of “Bilé!” which those around him misheard as “Pelé!”. That is how it came about.
On other hand, some names are based on the regional location they were born in such as those of Junior Baiano (from Bahia) or Marcelinho Carioca (from Rio, whose inhabitants are called Cariocas) and Juninho Pernambucano(from Pernambuco). Straight forward.
Some are also based on the physical appearance of the players. The names that relates to the diminutive “little” are usually followed by an “inho”. You would be familiar with those of Robinho, Ronaldinho, Marcelinho, Jairzinho, etc. Hence, in essence, Ronaldinho could translate to little Ronaldo or Ronaldo Junior. Similarly, those ending with an “ao” or “zao” could translate to tall or big, with names such as Luisao, Leandro Damiao, etc.
And then there are some that were just created to mess around with. I mean Hulk – the star striker for Porto. His real name is Givanildo Vieira de Souza. Yes. I would have a field day figuring out how to inscribe that on the shirt if I was the kit manager. His name, obviously, is derived from his physical strength, powerful shots and amazing bursts of speed. All the characteristics of the comic book Hulk, the only difference is that he does not tear off his shirt and neither does he turn green. However, the name originated purely, based on his resemblance to Lou Ferrigno, the action hero, who played the actual Hulk in the movie. Go figure.
Also existing are names that have multiple meanings like that of Kaka’s. In one of the Indian dilect (Tamil), Kaka means crow. I do not think he is as annoying as a crow could be; so do not really see that fit. In Persian and Bahasa (Indonesia), it means brother or sister.
The bottom line is that it just adds to the fact why we love Brazilian football. I mean, how fresh would it feel to have one of these names? While doing some research, I was able to derive my own Brazilian name, and this is what came up – AHMAO. Kind of disappointed as it does not sound cool enough but I guess I could live with it. Not sure if my wife would be happy if I called myself Ahmao, though.