Ajax – Godenzonen (Sons of the Gods) The Amsterdam club are named after mythological hero Ajax, said to be the greatest of all the Greeks next to his cousin Achilles (though, unlike Achilles, Ajax died unconquered). Sons of Gods is an extension of that even if, like most nicknames in Dutch football, it is rarely used.
Anderlecht – Les Mauves (The Purples), Paars-wit (Purple-white) When Anderlecht were founded in 1908, the recent visit of the future Belgian Queen Elisabeth was still talk of the town. She had been whisked around in a regal carriage adorned with purple and white flowers, and the colours were duly adopted by the newly-formed club.
APOEL – Thrylos (The Legend) The only nickname shared by another team in the last 32 (any ideas?) and said in this instance to originate from the APOEL side of the 1930s that won five successive championships – their first five! That club record could be equalled this term.
Astra Giurgiu – The Black Devils The team was founded in 1921 by Romanian, Dutch and English engineers working at the Astra Română oil refinery in Ploiesti (in 2012 the club moved 100km south to Giurgiu). In Ploiesti, their rivals were The Yellow Wolves of Petrolul so, inspired by oil, Astra became The Black Devils.
Athletic and their Leon©Getty Images
Athletic Club – Leones (The Lions) Athletic’s stadium sits next to the church of San Mamés, named after a saint who, legend has it, the Romans threw to the lions. Instead of gobbling up the prisoner, the beasts lay at his feet. Athletic’s players are the lions, defending their stadium, San Mamés.
AZ Alkmaar – Kaaskoppen (Cheese Heads) A reference to Alkmaar’s proud history as cheesemakers. The city is famous for its weekly cheese market, said to be the biggest and best in the Netherlands.
Beşiktaş – Black Eagles This has its origins in the side that went unbeaten for the whole of 1940/41. In one match, Beşiktaş led nearest rivals Süleymaniye 1-0 but rather than ease off they attacked relentlessly. “Come on, Black Eagles! Attack, Black Eagles!” came a booming voice from the crowd, said to belong to fisherman Mehmet Galin. The team duly earned a 6-0 win and a new nickname.
Celta Vigo – Olívicos (The Olives) Vigo is known as the ‘Olive City’ after a famous tree that avoided a mass 15th-century cull in Galicia by a vengeful if pious Isabella of Castile because it was on sacred ground.
Fenerbahçe – Sarı Kanaryalar (Yellow Canaries) The story goes that Cihat Arman, the club’s keeper between 1939 and 1952, wore a bright yellow jersey and his acrobatic saves were said to look like a bird in flight. One fan acclaimed the Yellow Canary and the name stuck.
Gent fans hail the Buffalos©Getty Images
Fiorentina – Gigliati (Lilies), Viola (Purple) The lily is Florence’s symbol. The flower, which is depicted on the club crest, was once white on a red background but the colours were switched in 1250 by the victors of a bloody battle as a sign of their power.
Genk – De Smurfen (The Smurfs) Some call them the Genkies (the generic name for the city’s inhabitants), others Miners (a nod to the area’s coal-mining past), but The Smurfs is the fans’ preferred name. It comes from their blue and white kit and inspired a celebrated tifo for their derby against Sint-Truidense (The Canaries) when a buff looking Papa Smurf was depicted with Tweety Pie in his grasp.
Gent – The Buffalos In the late 19th century William F Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, travelled to Ghent with the famed Barnum & Bailey circus. In a show featuring buffalos and Native Americans on horses, the chant “Buffalo, Buffalo, Wild West Ra” was heard and duly adopted by the newly-formed local club. Gent play with a Native American on their crest.
Hapoel Beer-Sheva are Israel’s Camels©Getty Images
Hapoel Beer-Sheva – The Camels Beer-Sheva is the largest city in the Negev desert. Moses, Abraham, King Solomon and many other biblical figures passed through the area with camels in the burning sun.
København – Byens Hold (The City’s Team) Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of one-upmanship? København and Brøndby dominate the Danish football landscape, but, as FCK fans are wont to remind their great rivals, only one is in the heart of Copenhagen, and therefore Copenhagen’s hearts. Brondby is a suburb.
Krasnodar – Byki (The Bulls) From the beast depicted on the badge of a team founded only nine years ago. Club president Sergei Galitski explains: “It would have been strange if a club from the Kuban region had a parrot or a giraffe on their logo. Bulls, though, are very common.”
The remaining teams, L to Z, will be revealed tomorrow.