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Neymar, Pele, Kaka - Why do many Brazilian footballers have just one name?

10:34 PM GMT 28/08/2018
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Some of the most iconic Brazilian internationals are known by a singular nickname – so why do certain players decide to go with just one name?

Brazilian footballers such as Pele, Ronaldo, Kaka and Neymar have long since followed in the tradition of going by just a singular name.

Unlike most Western nations where players are known by their first and surname – with their surname printed on the back of their shirt – there are a handful of the past and present of the Selecao who are known by just one name.

So why do certain Brazilians decide to forego traditional nomenclature?


Which Brazilian internationals go by just one name?


Brazilian footballers have a trend of going by just one name instead of a first name and surname, as is the tradition with other typically Western cultural naming systems.

But the likes of Alisson, Hugo, Neto and Ederson – all Brazilian goalkeepers who have been called up to the squad within the past year – all go with a singular name.

Brazilian legends such as Pele, Ronaldo, Kaka and Ronaldinho have also gone by singular titles.

The Liverpool player's full name is Alisson Ramses Becker, while the City shot-stopper is known formally as Ederson Moraes.

One of the most popular modern-day uses of the name is Neymar – commonly known as Neymar Jr – but whose full name is Neymar da Silva Santos Junior.

There are countless more examples. Chelsea forward Willian is known formally as Willian Borges da Silva; Manchester United's Fred goes by Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos; Carlos Henrique Casimiro is more commonly known as Casemiro and new Barcelona arrival Arthur's full name is Arthur Henrique Ramos de Oliveira Melo.


Why do certain Brazilian footballers go by one name?


In short, there is no specific cultural reasoning for certain Brazilian footballers to choose to go by just one name – when most Brazilians do so anyway.

Typically it is due to the fact that most Brazilian full names are complicated and long, which lead footballers to shorten their names or choose a nickname in order to be more easily recognised by their international fans.

Brazilian football fans also christen their football ideals with their own personal nickname to create a more personal and unique bond – something that is also done in England, when fans affectionately call Paul Gascoigne 'Gazza' and the likes of John Aldridge 'Aldo'.

Givanildo Vieira de Sousa simply revealed that he loved reading comics growing up and was a fan of a certain green Marvel superhero, which led to his father calling him 'Hulk'.

"Brazilian football is an international advert for the cordiality of Brazilian life because of its players' names," Alex Bellos writes in the book Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life

“Calling someone by their first name is a demonstration of intimacy — calling someone by their nickname more so.”

It's not just Brazilian footballers who have just one name – most Brazilians do, and a lot of them choose their names based on their first name, last name, a contraction of both, or an unrelated nickname.

"We don't use the last names," stated Lyris Wiedemann, a native of Porto Alegre who used to coordinate the Portuguese Language Program at Stanford University in California.

"It reflects a trait in the culture that's more personalised. We care about the person, and the person is not the family name. It's who they are."

Brazil, which used to be a colony of Portugal, still use Portuguese naming conventions. With these customs, people are given four names – their given name, which is often two to include a saint's name and/or a preposition (such as da, das, do, dos or de), the mother's last name, and then the father's last name.

In certain areas in Brazil, a common practice is to create a nickname based on the parents' first names. Rosangela and Edilson, for example, would call their daughter Edisangela.


What is Pele's real name?


Pele, arguably the most famed Brazilian footballer, has no link to his full real name – Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

The story of his own name etymology is that he couldn't pronounce of his then-favourite footballer, Vasco de Gama goalkeeper Bile, and so he turned it into Pele.

In his autobiography, Pele stated he had no idea what the name means, nor did his old friends.

Apart from the assertion that the name is derived from that of Bile, and that it is Hebrew for "miracle", the name Pele has no known meaning in Portuguese.