Benin have opted to ditch their “Squirrels” nickname and will be known as the Cheetahs from Monday, the west African country’s football federation said.
The old “les Écureuils” moniker has long been criticised by Benin fans who felt the small size of a squirrels meant their team were also considered to be insignificant. Hence the football federation has chosen a bolder nickname, along the lines of Cameroon’s “Indomitable Lions” or the “Elephants” of nearby Ivory Coast.
“The nickname given to the national team must resonate with the population and reflect our strong ambitions in the world of sport,” the Benin Football Federation said in a statement. “In order to propose a new name to the national team, the executive committee decided to set up a commission on the change of name of the national team of Benin.”
The federation has decided on cheetahs, or as will be commonly used in the country’s official language French, “Guepards”.
“From this day on, there will be no more squirrels in Benin at the football level. From now, our footballers will be called cheetahs,” the the federation president, Mathurin de Chacus, said.
All of Africa’s 54 national teams have a nickname that is widely used. Animals figure prominently among the chosen names, such as the Leopards of the Democratic Republic of Congo, crocodiles (Likuena) of Lesotho, Lions of Senegal and wasps (Amavubi) from Rwanda.
Gambia lived up to their nickname of the Scorpions with several stings in the tail as they emerged shock quarter-finalists at the Africa Cup of Nations finals at the start of the year.