If a name works, why fix it?

And around we go again.

This time it's the President, no less, who has re-opened the debate around the name of Bafana Bafana.

I well remember the editor of The Star newspaper in Johannesburg almost losing his job when he launched an abortive, front-page campaign to get the name changed in the nineties and was met with a volley of abuse from his readers. SAFA bosses have tried several times because they didn't think of the name and haven't nailed down the legal and commercial rights to it.

The very fact that it isn't official or authorised is what appeals to me about "Bafana Bafana". It arrived organically out of a newspaper article (as the classic 'Amabokoboko' did as well) and through the fans adopting it themselves rather than it emerging from some "brand strategy session" attended by over-paid people who are creative with a capital C.

Thabo Mbeki also chirped about Banyana Banyana, Amaglug-glug and Amakrokokroko but he never has demonstrated a sense of humour. Those names bring a smile and a hint of irreverence to the whole thing and hence generate great affection.

It's intriguing in among all this that the untouchable name and symbol now is the Springbok, long viewed as the most endangered of the species but worn this week by the entire ANC cabinet.

Ali Bacher moved cricket away from the "tainted" icon as fast as he could and off into the land of the Protea, also dumping the Currie Cup along the way for the same reasons.

Rugby stuck to its guns and has its heritage intact, a world champion team and a vibrant domestic final this afternoon.

As for cricket? No World Cup win yet nor a final, a local SuperSport competition that not even the sponsors will televise (and may now, suddenly and controversially, include Zimbabwe in a half-baked way) and a name that headline writers all too easily put alongside "wilt".

It's nothing that a ticker-tape parade down Adderley Street wouldn't fix, but the Proteas have to earn that before their name finally settles into the national consciousness.

Aside from Italy's pragmatic Azzurri, nicknames for national sporting teams are not really a European notion but African nations specialise in them, with Benin's football team, "The Squirrels", being my favourite. And the Antipodeans seem to be addicted to them.

The Australians have worked their way through most of their flora, fauna and history with the Wallabies (rugby), the Kangaroos (rugby league), the Socceroos (and their Under-23 equivalent the Oly-roos), the Matildas (women's soccer) and the Kookaburras (men's hockey).

Interestingly the most historic and successful of them all, the cricketers, are known only as Australia.

But the Kiwis are the best at this. The All Blacks and the Black Caps are well known but I have always loved the Wheel Blacks (wheelchair rugby), the All Whites (soccer), the Tall Blacks (basketball) and their badminton representatives who, for a while, played under the name of the Black Cocks.



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