The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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The Significant Nicknames Project

Team nicknames in soccer are too simple. Even a child can see this, and yet, although the child was our future and this happened in 1979, nothing ever changes, least of all the fact that it is chromosomally impossible for the human brain to imagine the color blue fighting against itself. What do you think happens when France plays Italy? Is the abstract concept of blue too afraid to watch, so it spends the whole day raking the lawn and cursing under its breath, like Richard Williams during the Wimbledon final?

Wait, I almost forgot. There are also some teams called the Reds. There, that’s 89% of all European soccer teams. Throw in the teams whose nicknames are just abbreviations of their full names and we’re pushing 137%. It’s time for someone to do something about this. It’s a big world, and language is pretty good at conveying ideas. Screw everything, let’s sail beyond the sunset.


Tottenham Hotspur
Old nickname: Spurs
New nickname: No one would RSVP, so it was hard to know how much food to prepare in advance.
Alternate nickname: The Laser-Lites

Real Madrid
Old nickname: Los Merengues
New nickname: It was as if she’d walked those streets until the neighborhood lost all meaning, the subtle pressure of rain and old memories effacing its poetry and stifling its power of speech.
Alternate nickname: The Sky-Happeners

Old nickname: The Nerazzuri
New nickname: When shaking hands with a millionaire one ought not to notice his rather oddly aimed glass eye.
Alternate nickname: The Mello-Tones

A.C. Milan
Old nickname: The Rossoneri
New nickname: After a certain point even listing the cruel ironies of nightclubbing becomes tedious, and the Frasier DVDs begin their sinuous crawl toward the top of the Netflix queue.
Alternate nickname: The Spaniels

Old nickname: Barça
New nickname: During the long summers at his country house, the submarine captain is surprisingly shy about punishing his own grandchildren.
Alternate nickname: The Marvelettes

Manchester United
Old nickname: The Red Devils
New nickname: It is difficult to know whom to side with when a driver suddenly finds a good parking place, but in a way that makes other people angry.
Alternate nickname: The Passion Fruits

Old nickname: The Blues
New nickname: Spending the whole day being angry about the philosophy of a book is a sign that you secretly agree with it.
Alternate nickname: The Bivalves

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The Significant Nicknames Project

by Brian Phillips · August 9, 2008

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