Behind the name of every football club there is a story waiting to be told. And while the origins of the Uniteds, Olympiques and Athletics of this world might be straightforward enough, there are some venerable institutions with names worthy of investigation. FIFA.com takes a tour of the world's footballing outposts and tells the story of how the likes of Juventus, Arsenal, Independiente and Galatasaray came to be known as they are.
Acknowledged as the birthplace of the game, some of England's most prestigious clubs started out as factory teams. Chief among them are London giants Arsenal, founded in the late 19th century by workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, in the south-east of the English capital. The cannon on the club crest and the nickname of the Gunners is a reminder to younger fans that their club owes its origins to an arms factory and not to the shooting power of its strikers, a valid explanation perhaps for the Arsenals of Kiev in Ukraine, Sarandi in Argentina and Roatan in Honduras.
Not to be outdone, the railway workers of yesteryear were prolific founders of football teams. The employees of Argentinian rail company Ferrocarril Central Argentino, for example, were the men behind the creation of Rosario Central and Ferro Carril Oeste, while their counterparts in eastern Europe set up numerous clubs that go by the name of Lokomotiv. Continuing the transport theme, the roots of Australian outfit Central Coast Mariners and Japanese side Yokohama Marinos can be traced to their maritime backgrounds.
Returning to eastern Europe, most well-informed fans know that clubs bearing the moniker CSKA are army sides, while Dynamo is the name of choice for national police teams.
From our very beginnings we wanted to play like the English, to bear a distinguished name and colours and to beat every team we came up against.
Yet in some cases working for a company or institution is no guarantee of a place in the team that bears its name. Take the case of a group of young employees at a luxury department store in a Buenos Aires suburb at the turn of the last century. When the store's managers set up a team called Maipu Banfield to take part in an inter-company league, they obliged younger staff to pay subscriptions to attend games but refused to let them play for the side. The disgruntled youngsters promptly decided to set up their own 'independent' club in response, and so the world-famous Independiente was born.
As a look through football history shows, it was not just the gainfully employed who expressed their passion for the game by forming their own teams. Football-crazy students have been responsible for founding some of the game's most illustrious institutions and nowhere more prolifically than in Latin America. From Estudiantes of Argentina to Universitario de Deportes of Lima, Peru, and Mexico's Pumas UNAM, the region's alumni have had a major hand in its footballing heritage.
Back in 1904 scholars at the Colegio Comercial Anglicano Argentino in the Argentinian city of Rosario decided to pay homage to the Englishman who founded the seat of learning and also introduced the game to the country, one Isaac Newell. Newell's Old Boys, the club they set up in his honour, has since been represented by some of Argentina's most famous footballing sons, Jorge Valdano, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi among them.
Over on the other side of the Atlantic and at about the same time, a team of talented pupils from a secondary school in the Istanbul suburb of Galata were catching the eye with their dazzling skills. At one game inquisitive fans asked the gifted youngsters who they were, prompting the reply, "The gentlemen of the palace of Galata". The Turkish for 'palace' is saray and when the club's founder Ali Sami Yen heard about the verbal exchange he decided to adopt the name of Galatasaray for his team. "From our very beginnings we wanted to play like the English, to bear a distinguished name and colours and to beat every team we came up against," commented the man who would later give his own name to the club's famous stadium.
The Latin for 'youth' is Juventus and while it may not be eternal, the deeds of a group of Turin youngsters aged between 14 and 17 have certainly endured in time. In the 112 years that have elapsed since those intrepid teenagers founded the club, I Bianconeri have grown old gracefully, so much so in fact that they are now somewhat ironically known throughout the world as La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady).
Another club moniker concealing a linguistic influence is Gamba Osaka. The J.League outfit decided to adopt gamba, the Italian word for "leg", in its name as football is a game played with that part of the anatomy and because of its close similarity to the Japanese word gambaru, which translates as "to keep trying" or "to keep going".
Myths, foreigners and a love story
Historical figures have provided another source of inspiration for clubs. Dutch giants Ajax are named after the hero of Greek mythology, who was famed for his courage and bravery, qualities he shared with Hercules, who has given his name to Spanish side Hercules Alicante, Heracles Almelo of Netherlands and Greece's Iraklis Thessaloniki. Meanwhile Chile's biggest club Colo Colo share their name with a famous warrior of the Mapuche people, who fought with distinction against the Spanish in the 16th century.
Santiago rivals Union Espanola came into existence some three hundred years later when a group of Spanish immigrants got together to form their own team. Los Hispanos are just one of several Chilean sides boasting ethnic origins, with domestic rivals Audax Italiano and Palestino being set up by Italian and Palestinian settlers respectively. Celtic of Scotland were founded in similar circumstances and retain very strong links with the city's Irish Catholic community.
We end our look at club name etymologies with a "romantic" tale from Morocco. A French protectorate between 1912 and 1956, the country offered little in the way of opportunities for local people to play sport. Determined to rectify the situation, a group of pioneering young men from the city of Casablanca decided to set up the nation's first sports club, giving it the name of Wydad, which means "love" in Arabic. Legend has it that the choice was made when one of the founders turned up late for a meeting because he had been watching the latest film by Egyptian actress Oum Kalsoum. The name of the movie in question? Wydad.
What about your club?
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