- UEFA Europa League sides’ nicknames: L to Z
Legia Warszawa – Wojskowi (Army Men)
Legia was founded by members of the Polish Legions (Poland’s first active army in generations) during World War One. It subsequently became the official club of the Polish Army, hence the militaristic moniker.
Ludogorets Razgrad – The Eagles
The Bulgarian side were once The Wolves but took the aerial route many years ago. Nobody is quite sure why, but one circuitous theory has it that Razgrad’s Russian twin town is Orel, which translates as Eagle.
Lyon – Les Gones (The Kids)
There is no story to the origins, but the nickname conveys ideas of youth and, as it’s written in the local dialect, is instantly recognisable as being from Lyon.
Manchester United – The Red Devils
United were The Heathens (they came from the Newton Heath area of Manchester and played on Sundays) but in the 1960s Sir Matt Busby reputedly took a liking to the Red Devils. That was the moniker the nearby Salford rugby league team had held since being labelled “Les Diables Rouges” by a French journalist in 1934.
Mönchengladbach – Fohlenelf (Foals XI)
During their 1970s golden era under Hennes Weisweiler and Udo Lattek, Gladbach became famed for their youthful vigour and quick, dynamic, attack-minded football. Foals (the name for a young horse) seemed a good fit and it stuck.
Olympiacos – Thrylos (The Legend)
Olympiacos owe their moniker to enthusiastic sports writers of the late 1920s who were driven to waxing lyrical during a series of international friendly tournaments.
Osmanlıspor – Yeniçeriler (Janissaries), Akıncılar (Cavalries)
The club were known as Ankaraspor until 2014, when, with fortunes dwindling, the Turkish capital’s mayor Melih Gökçek oversaw a more evokative rebranding – Osmanlıspor means Ottoman-sport. It seemed to work: the side were promptly promoted and last season finished fifth in the top flight. Their nicknames follow suit – Janissaries were an elite Ottoman fighting unit.
PAOK – Dikefalos Aetos (Double-Headed Eagle)
There are many Eagles in football, but double-headed ones are less common. It comes from the club logo, which is itself inspired by the crest of the Byzantine Empire. It symbolises the club’s roots in Constantinople, where the refugees that founded the team were from.
Roma – I Lupi (The Wolves)
The wolf is the symbol of Rome. When the grandfather of Romulus and Remus was overthrown by his brother, the usurper ordered the twins to be cast into the river Tiber. They were rescued by a she-wolf, and Romulus later founded Rome.
Rostov – Yellow-and-Blues (Zhelto-Siniye)
This one is up for grabs at the moment but Zhelto-Siniye seems to have the edge on Rostovchane (Rostov citizens) and Yuzhane (Southerners). The club used to be known as Selmashi or Harvesters, both nods to their foundation as an agricultural machinery factory team.
Schalke – Die Knappen (The Miners)
Gelsenkirchen is deep in Germany’s industrial heartland and in the early days, much of Schalke’s fan base was drawn from the coal-mining community. Miners that passed their apprenticeships used to be called Knappe.
Shakhtar Donetsk – Pitmen
Another homage to a coalmining background, this time in the Donbass region – Shakhtar means mine-worker in Ukrainian. There is a hammer and pickaxe on the club crest and many fans wear bright orange pit hats.
Sparta Praha – Rudí (The Maroons)
Sparta wore black, then black and white before adopting maroon after one board member watched Arsenal play in London and, inspired, bought a set of shirts. The colour and nickname stuck. In better times Sparta are also called Iron Sparta after their unbeatable team of the 1920s.
St-Étienne – Les Verts (The Greens)
The iconic green colour comes from the sunblind of the office of Geoffroy Guichard, founder of the Casino chain of grocery stores that started the club back in 1919. The side’s stadium carries his name.
Tottenham – Spurs
A shortened version of Hotspur, which comes from Harry Hotspur, a medieval English nobleman who appears in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 and was famous for his riding spurs and fighting cocks.
Villarreal – El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine)
A bunch of supporters started the club’s association with the Beatles during a game at El Madrigal in 1968 by changing the words of the Famous Five’s hit song to “Amarillo es el Villarreal/amarillo es/amarillo es” (Villarreal are yellow, they are yellow).
- The story behind Villarreal’s nickname
Zenit – Blue-White-and-Sky-Blues (Sine-Belo-Golubye)
Wikipedia suggests Zenitchiki (Anti-aircraft Gunners), but nobody uses that. Zenitovtsy (Those who belong to Zenit) is heard, but Sine-Belo-Golubye is more popular – just. For much of the time, Zenit does the job.