Home Columns Anantha Narayan The boys from Brazil

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    When the entire world was losing sleep over whether Brazil will live up to the hype, I was wracking my brains about why footballers from that region have names longer than reticulated pythons. I mean, why on earth, would a mom give her child a 48-letter moniker like Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira?

    Then, I discovered that Brazilians name their offspring by following the Portuguese tradition of multiple surnames. So if your dad was a a�?de Caravacaa��, your mom a a�?de Cruza�� and your husband a a�?de Vectoresa�� you might have a name like Julia de Caravaca de Cruz de Vectores. Got it?

    Although saddled with a conveyor belt of letters, nearly all Brazilian players opt to flash only their first or nicknames on their jersey. Understandable, right? Edson Arantes de Nasci-mento, for example, famously proclaimed himself as Pele. Analysing the nicknames of legends reveals the friendly nature of the largest Portuguese-speaking nation. In contrast to India, where demigods are labeled Master Blaster and The Wall, Brazilians believe in lighthearted, intimate names.

    Midfielder Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri was referred to as a�?Dungaa�� (equivalent of a�?Dopeya��, the dwarf from Snow White). His uncle had bestowed it on him due to his short stature but the catchy name stuck even as Carlos bloomed into a five-foot-nine-incher!

    The best dribbler in history, Manuel Francisco dos Santos, suffered a similar fate. He was the puniest child in his family. His sister used to tease him by calling him a�?Garrinchaa�� (the little wren). Pity, thata��s how the football world remembers him even today.

    Careca (literally: bald head), the star of the 1986 World Cup, used to be a fan of the clown Carequinho. Kakaa��s real name was Ricardo. His kid brother could never get it right. He kept muttering ca-ca. Hence the nickname. Marcos Evangelista de Moraes, the most capped Brazilian, was luckier. He was a livewire forcing his team mates to draw a parallel to another attacking player who went by the name Cafuringa. As a nod, they called him a�?Cafua��. He went on to be the game changer, we know today.

    Anantha Narayan

    Got more juice on the Samba warriors? Pass them on to anantha@albertdali.com

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