AFC: The stories behind club nicknames

Explore the meanings behind the unique team nicknames of six different clubs from across the breadth of the Asian Football Confederation.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima (Japan) – Sanfrecce

Sides from Japan boast some of the more intriguing nicknames, often with a fascinating story behind them, and none more so than three-time J.League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Sanfrecce literally translates the Japanese word for ‘three’ (san) and the Italian word for ‘arrow’ (frecce), meaning the English version of the name would be Three Arrows Hiroshima.

The reason? The story goes that the great Japanese feudal lord Moro Motonari taught his three sons the “lesson of the arrows”, whereby a single arrow can be easily broken yet three together are unbreakable.

With unity the message behind the tale, Japanese students continue to learn the lesson to this day, while the three arrows feature prominently on the Sanfrecce Hiroshima logo.

Ceres Negros (Philippines) – The Busmen

Founded in 2012, Ceres Negros are among the newer sides on the Asian club scene, but the three-time champions of Philippines have enjoyed plenty of success in recent times.

Originally formed as Ceres La Salle, the club is owned by Filipino transportation company Vallacar Transit Inc, with the name deriving from the Ceres Liner bus line.

In 2017, the fast-growing club became Ceres Negros, with the latter part of the name reflecting the region of the Southeast Asian country they were – until recently – based.

Thus, the dominant side in the Philippines are known as ‘The Busmen’ and feature the Vallacar Transit Inc. logo on their club badge.

Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan) – The Cotton Growers

The giants of Uzbek football have a proud history, having won their domestic league and biggest cup competition 12 times apiece, while they have returned to the summit in their homeland in recent years.

Founded in 1956, Pakhtakor’s name literally translates as ‘cotton maker’, with the word ‘pakhta’ meaning cotton and ‘kor’ meaning to make.

The name reflects Uzbekistan’s rich history in producing and exporting cotton – the Central Asian country’s main cash crop.

To this day Uzbekistan remains in the world’s top 10 cotton producers and the cotton boll still features prominently in the centre of the Tashkent side’s badge.

Newcastle Jets (Australia) – The Jets

While the A-League often reflects the team names of other English-speaking nations: United, City and Wanderers, there is only one Jets.

Based in New South Wales, around 150 kilometres from Sydney, Newcastle Jets first came into existence shortly after the turn of the Millennium and they have been part of Australia’s A-League since its inception in 2005-06.

The clubs ‘Jets’ nickname derives from the city’s proximity to the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) Base Williamtown, which lies just 20 kilometres north of Newcastle.

Three F/A-18 Hornets adorn the club badge, which the Royal Australian Air Force has based at Williamtown.

Buriram United (Thailand) – The Thunder Castles

A truly unique nickname, The Thunder Castles reflects both Buriram United's provincial pride, culture and club history.

The Castle part of the nickname is the most visible on the club crest itself with Phanom Rung castle, constructed between the 10th and 13th centuries and situated in Buriram Province, prominently displayed above the team name.

Indeed, such is its importance that Phanom Rung, and the other abundant sandstone sanctuaries found in the area, have given the city of Buriram the nickname The Stone Castle.

As for 'Thunder', the club was originally founded in 1970 as Provincial Electricity Authority and, as such, twin lightning bolts, were part of the team's early crest. With the words for Thunder and Electricity having similar wording in Thai, the move to Buriram in 2009 completed the transformation from Provincial Electricity Authority to Buriram United, The Thunder Castles.

Al Arabi SC (Qatar) – The Dream Team

While their fortunes may have waned in recent times, in the 1980s and 1990s Doha club Al Arabi were among the most dominant teams not only domestically but on the Continent as they reached the 1995 Asian Club Championship final – the predecessor to the AFC Champions League.

Al Arabi's championship haul in Qatar was particularly impressive in the turn of the 90s where they won five league titles between 1990 to 1997. Coming around the same period of the all-conquering United States men's basketball team, local journalists began to refer to Al Arabi as 'Fareeg Al-Ahlam' – The Dream Team.

Since those glory days, though, Al Arabi have struggled to live up to their nickname with the likes of Al Sadd, Al Rayyan and Duhail SC rising to the fore. Indeed, fans from rivals Al Rayyan have been known to mock their city neighbours as "The Nightmare Team".

However, Al Arabi were able to add silverware to their trophy cabinet once more after a decade-long drought with victory over Al Rayyan in the Sheikh Jassim Cup in 2008, a title they won back-to-back in 2010 and 2011. The dream of returning to the top echelons of the Qatari domestic championship continues to burn.

- The AFC