Meet the ‘animals’ competing for the Africa Cup of Nations

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The Africa Cup of Nations is under way in Egypt, with 24 countries – all with different monikers – clashing on the field over the next three weeks.

Nicknames mean a lot in African football – not only do they give identity to the fans, they also help motivate players.

Team nicknames, alongside colourful fans and drums, are part of the very essence of the competition.

Soaring Eagles

Over the next three weeks, the eagle is possibly going to feature most prominently in Egypt.

Although the Nigerian national team is famous for their green jerseys, the name Super Eagles of Nigeria is even more popular. The team derives its name from the eagle on the country’s coat of arms.

Tunisia are simply known as the Carthage Eagles because of their historic link with the Carthaginian civilisation, whose national symbol was the eagle. Tunisia will want to see power, agility and strength in their players, all characteristics associated with the eagle.

And don’t forget The Eagles of Mali.

While The Cranes of Uganda will also be looking for a flying start.

Back on earth and wild animals reign supreme.

From the lion to the snake, leopards to elephants, all of them will be at this year’s tournament, including:

  • Cameroon – The Indomitable Lions: A name that has really worked for them based on their strength and reputation. They are four-time winners of the competition and the defending champions
  • Morocco – The Atlas Lions
  • Senegal – The Teranga Lions
  • Ivory Coast – The Elephants: This animal is the national emblem of Cote d’Ivoire due to the country’s past prominence in the ivory trade
  • Benin – The Squirrels: the smallest animal on this list
  • Angola – Palancas Negras (Giant Antelopes)
  • DR Congo – The Leopards
  • Algeria – The Fennec Foxes
  • Guinea-Bissau – The Djurtus (Wild dogs)

Kings and warriors

Respecting rulers is a strong tradition in Africa – and so it is no surprise to find teams named after them.

Seven-time champions Egypt are the kings of Africa and have a name fitting of their status: the Pharaohs. Their line-up this year includes Mo Salah, the reigning Caf and BBC African Footballer of the Year.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Reigning champions Egypt have a historic touch to their moniker

The Pharaohs are in the same group as the Warriors of Zimbabwe.

Kenya and Ghana, however, have sought inspiration elsewhere.

The Harambee Stars of Kenya is a Swahili word that means “pulling together”. A nickname that calls for the country and the team to come together to achieve a common goal.

Whereas Ghana are known as The Black Stars owing to the star on the country’s flag. One which the Ghana Football Association believes promotes unity.

Football fans across Africa will be keenly awaiting the end of the competition on 19 July to know whether the eagles have soared, the lions have roared or the pharaohs have reigned supreme once more.

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