Best nicknames in football: Barcelona, Juventus & clubs with the game's most unusual monikers

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It can be easy to forget the origins of football club nicknames as we read them each week, but Goal has taken a look at some of the most interesting

What's in a name? Nearly every football club in the world has at least one nickname. From Manchester United and Barcelona to your local team, there is usually an affectionate shorthand.

Generally speaking, they tend to be simple and unimaginative. For example, Liverpool play in red so they become 'the Reds' and Chelsea wear blue, so they are known as 'the Blues'. Similarly, some clubs are referred to by an abbreviated title - think those with 'Rovers', 'Wanderers', 'City' or 'Town' in their name.

However, if you look beyond the dull repetition that exists, there is a bountiful yield of clubs with brilliantly odd nicknames, with all sorts of stories and reasons attached.

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Most clubs will adopt a nickname of their own volition, usually when it has a unique meaning or projects a flattering image, but some have had insulting tags applied to them by rival fans. Occasionally, in such instances, some clubs have actually embraced the slurs.

In no particular order, Goal takes a look at some of the best and most unusual football nicknames from across the globe.


Best football club nicknames


Barcelona may be one of the grandest teams in world football, but one of their nicknames evokes a less than refined image. The Catalan club, their players and fans are known as Culés, a Castellano term to describe individuals who flash their backsides.

The name traces its origins back to the early 20th century, when Barca played at Calle de la Industria. The ground, which was considerably smaller than their subsequent home, Camp Nou, was prone to overcrowding and fans often sat on the walls surrounding the pitch.

Those walking into the stadium would thus be greeted with the sight of dozens of backsides on their way and so a nickname was born.

La Liga is also home to Los Colchoneros (the Mattress Makers), which is a nickname for capital club Atletico Madrid. The reason for the connection between Atletico and beds dates back to the years which followed the Spanish Civil War, when mattresses were traditionally covered with red and white striped material.

Villarreal are referred to as the Yellow Submarine, a nickname that stretches back to the late 1960s, when a group called Los Mustangs released a cover version of the famous Beatles song. It was one of the most popular songs in Spain at the time and the connection was subsequently made with Villarreal, who wore yellow shirts.

In Italy, Serie A side Chievo are affectionately known as the Mussi Volanti, or the Flying Donkeys. Chievo played local rivals Hellas Verona in a game in the 1990s, in which opposition fans unfurled a banner mocking them. The message read: "When donkeys will fly, we'll face you in a derby in Serie A".

Not long after, in 2001, Chievo achieved promotion to Serie A, at which point they ironically embraced the Mussi Volanti nickname.

Chievo Flying Donkeys 2001

Turin giants Juventus are known as La Vecchia Signora or the Old Lady, which is a paradoxical nickname, since Juventus means 'the youth' in Latin. There are a number of variations of the female theme when it comes to Juve, with la Fidanzata d'Italia (the Girlfriend of Italy) and La Madama (the Madam) also commonly used.

Ligue 1 side Nimes Olympique can say that their nickname stretches back to Roman times, drawing upon the city's history for inspiration. They're known as Les Crocodiles, which is a reference to the city's coat of arms, itself an homage to ancient Roman coinage depicting a crocodile chained to a palm tree. That image, rather than suggesting the taming of a local reptile population, was intended to symbolise the Roman conquest of Egypt.

England is home to some unusual football club nicknames, but the best ones are attached to clubs beneath the glitz and glamour of the Premier League. Take, for example, National League side Hartlepool United, who are also referred to as the Monkey Hangers.

Monkeys aren't indigenous to England, so where did it come from? According to the official club website, the nickname was born during the Napoleonic Wars when a monkey was found to be the sole survivor of a French shipwreck off the coast of Hartlepool.

H'Angus Hartlepool United

The animal had been dressed in a military uniform - as a source of amusement to the sailors - and, when local fisherman encountered it they are said to have questioned the shaken creature, ultimately concluding that it was a French spy. So what does one do with an unintelligble French 'spy'? You take it to trial and sentence it of course! The story ends with the death by hanging of the hapless monkey.

Hartlepool's mascot is a monkey named H'Angus and, back in 2002, in what is perhaps the most excellent and subversive tangent to the story, he - then played by Stuart Drummond - was elected as mayor of Hartlepool.

Manchester United are known as the Red Devils and the image has been incorporated into the club's crest, while their mascot is Fred the Red, a cheeky devil character. They may be one of the biggest football clubs in the world, but United actually followed the lead of a rugby league team, the Salford Red Devils, who were the originals.

Argentine club Newell's Old Boys - the alma mater of Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Marcelo Bielsa - have an unusual nickname that hints at an unhealthy history. They are known as La Lepra or The Lepers, but it is not because the club's players were afflicted with leprosy. Rather, it is a nod to their decision to play a charity game in aid of a leprosy clinic in the 1920s.

Mexican giants Club Deportivo Guadalajara are more commonly known by their nickname, Chivas, or to give its full version, Chivas Rayadas, which means 'striped goats'. The name, which is believed to have been coined in 1948, was originally derogatory in nature in that it was a comment on the players 'jumping like goats', but the club have since embraced the moniker.

Irish club Bohemians are so-called due to the difficulty of its founding members to find a suitable playing venue. Their name and nickname, the Gypsies, is, according to the club's official website, an acknowledgement of their 'Bohemian spirit', which saw them play at numerous venues around Dublin until they settled at Dalymount Park.

Some players and clubs have developed reputations for being dishonest, but Scottish side Ayr United literally cannot have that said about them, given their nickname: the Honest Men. It has a literary origin, taking inspiration from the Robert Burns poem 'Tam o'Shanter', which contains the lines: "Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses / For honest men and bonie lasses."

Another nickname with an academic slant is that of Leeds-based amateur team Headingley AFC, who are known colloquially as 'Boffins' - an informal term for an expert - due to the club's proximity to the University of Leeds.

So, as you can see there are plenty of unusual nommes de guerre in football and, rest assured, the above collection is by no means exhaustive! Leave any omitted examples of brilliant nicknames you want to share with the world in the comment section.

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