Black Stars works on so many more levels! Most importantly, it's the name of the fantastic Talib Kweli/Mos Def collaboration. Here's how I rank the African nicknames:
6. Bafana Bafana (doesn't it just mean "boys boys"?)
5. Les Elephants (throw off that imperialistic "les"!)
4. Super Eagles (super is the worst adjective of the bunch.)
3. Desert Foxes (who knew Algerians loved Rommel so much?)
2. Black Stars (listen to "Astronomy (8th Light)"!)
1. Indomitable Lions (badass.)
Fair enough. And I should feel doubly ashamed, as a supposed student of Steven Hahn, not to know that "Black Stars" originally comes from Marcus Garvey's 1910s-20s Africa-America shipping line. Poor all around.
Looking beyond the six African teams to qualify in 2010, though, there are even more stylish sobriquets. While Spain struggles to break down the obdurate Swiss defense, I though I'd attempt a single grand continental ranking**:
19. Mauritius, Club M. Is this a bad Hitchcock knock-off, a chotched-out Manhattan hotspot, or a national football side?
18. South Africa, Bafana Bafana. Yeah, I think it's "The Boys, The Boys." Sounds like a Broadway musical.
17. Seychelles, The Pirates. Comes off a bit flat after the recent fuss over Indian ocean buccaneering?
16. Somalia, The Ocean Stars. A subtler and more suitable spin on the same theme?
15. Ivory Coast, Les Elephants. Stomp, stomp.
14. Nigeria, The Super Eagles. Super-duper.
13. Algeria, The Desert Foxes. I'm sure they're not really pro-Nazi.
7(tie). Benin, The Squirrels; Botswana, The Zebras; Uganda, The Cranes; Lesotho, The Crocodiles; Rwanda, The Wasps. Unlikely animals are excellent choices, although these five all sound more like the lastest Pitchfork flavor of the month than actual sporting units.
5. Tunisia, The Eagles of Carthage. Even more obscure reductive historical-nationalistic mythologizing. When I read about the Rome-Carthage wars, I always root for Hannibal.
4. Ghana, The Black Stars. Garvey!
3. Angola, The Black Antelopes. Evocative, and "Black X" is a winning formula. I like the willingness to risk naming the team to mimick the unconsciously racist "compliment" that might be delivered by your out of touch grandfather.
2. Djibouti, The Shoremen of the Red Sea. Points for grandiosity! Sounds like the title of a Kipling poem.
The Shoremen of the Red Sea
Athwart the shimmering shores of Aden,
The dusky fishermen alight
Their dories rock gently in the dock-yard,
Against the moon-struck tropic night.
1. Cameroon, The Indomitable Lions. Can't beat it.
** No, not all the teams on the continent are included -- partial redundancies, like Sudan's Desert Hawks or Ethiopia's Walaya Antelopes, are excuded, as are juts flat-out boring names like Libya's Greens and Zimbabwe's Warriors.