Soccer - Out goes timid squirrel and in comes the cheetah as Benin team gets a new nickname

COTONOU (Reuters) - West African country Benin have opted to ditch their 'squirrels' nickname and will be known as the Cheetahs from Monday, the 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 that their team was also considered to be insignificant. Hence the football federation have 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,” said a statement from the Benin Football Federation.

“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.”

They have 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,” declared the federation president Mathurin de Chacus.

All of Africa’s 54 national teams have a nickname that is widely used.

Animal 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.

Tiny 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.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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