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How Did These Football Clubs Get Their Amazing Nicknames?

Which side is known as the Billy Goats?
Which side is known as the Billy Goats?

Ever wondered why Everton are known as the Toffees, Sunderland are the Black Cats or Charlton are the Addicks?

Football clubs are steeped in tradition and this can very often be the root of longstanding nicknames for clubs. But while you may be familiar with some of the nicknames associated with clubs in the UK, travel further afield and things aren’t quite so clear.

Here are a few of world football’s more unusual club nicknames:

Estudiantes de La Plata - Los Pincharratas  (The Rat Stabbers)

One of Argentina’s more famous clubs after Boca & River Plate, Estudiantes (students) are known throughout the nation as The Rat Stabbers.

Brought to fame in England thanks to comedy character Frank Sidebottom’s penchant for wearing their shirt (as it has the same colours as his beloved Altrincham) the club’s nickname hails from the clubs origins but was cemented by a famous player from the 1920s.

Estudiantes was formed in 1905 and many of the founder members were indeed university students in the club’s home city of La Plata. The Rat Stabbers is a reference to the university’s medical laboratories where experiments were often carried out on captive rats.

A couple of decades later, one of the club’s early prominent players, Felipe Montedónica, had the day job of a rat catcher in La Plata market and allegedly would often be found chasing rats and stabbing them with a knife attached to a wooden pole.

Benevento Calcio  -  Stregoni  (The Witches)

The club from the South West of the nation are commonly known as The Witches – making for a superb club crest.

The nickname stems from Italian folklore – The Witches of Benevento. For centuries reports of witches' gatherings began to circulate and in 1428 they were cemented when local man Matteuccia da Todi was put on trial for witchcraft. In his trial he claimed the meetings they took place under a walnut tree in the town.

The rumours quickly spread and, much like Salem in America, the small town became synonymous with devilry and witchcraft.

IFK Norrköping  - Peking

Yes – you have read that correctly – the Swedish club are affectionately known as the former capital of China (now called Beijing).

Although often rumoured to be a link between the architecture in the eastern city and the the (then) Chinese capital, this turns out to be a myth.

It has recently been confirmed that the link dates back to a famous historical traveller by the name of Sven Hedin, who in the early part of the 20th century, travelled extensively in China.

While there he learned that Peking means Northern City in Chinese and he said that the same in Swedish is Norrköping. Somewhere along the way, the football club assumed this nickname although it has also been put down to the link between the many textile factories that both cities had in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

FC Köln – Die Geißböcke (The Billy Goats)

FC Köln, or Cologne as they are known on these shores, are known as the billy goats and have one on the pitch at every home game as a mascot.

The connection comes from the 1950s when a circus master by the name of Carola Williams gifted the club a billy goat as a mascot (the club was only founded in 1948 and did not have one).

The goat was given the name Hennes – after player/coach Hennes Weisweiler.  Ever since the goat has been kept on the sidelines at the RheinEnergie Stadion.

Köln are now on their eighth incarnation of Hennes – Hennes VIII who has been with them since 2008. The original Hennes was the mascot for 16 years – the longest-serving goat between 1950-1966.

S.S.C. Napoli – Partenopei

The club from Southern Italy are fiercely proud of their heritage and it is from that they gained their odd nickname – the Partenopei.

It is a Greek term meaning ‘old city’ and the club owe their name to the ancient Greek legend of Odysseus who tied himself to the mast of his ship and made the crew cover their ears to avoid being lured onto the treacherous rocks near Sorrento by the sirens – one of whom was called Partenope. When she failed she is said to have killed herself and her body was washed up on the beach in Naples.

The old city refers to the port area of Naples, a short distance from the club’s legendary San Paolo stadium. 

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