SOMEONE complained the other day that one of the indications that our soccer has lost its sparkle is that we have lost the tradition of nicknaming players.
There is something more appealing about going to the stadium to cheer "Ten-to-ten", "Go man go" or "Aaaaace", rather than to watch some Mahlomola Mofokeng or Aupa (not Oupa) Hlatshwayo.
Sadly, we have lost all that touch.
Granted, the vuvuzela adds some vibe to our soccer and is certainly a much more colourful way to spur sportsmen on than the dour European clap of the hands. In Africa we clap hands in school or church, not at the stadium.
Nicknames work, believe you me. I guess girls would spontaneously be more attracted to Bizzah than they would be to Hosea.
Nicknames sometimes bring cheer to dodgy situations that would otherwise make us cry.
A couple of years back in Pretoria there was a nasty woman and child molester who pounced on women walking through deserted open fields. His signature greeting was "Suna papa" (kiss daddy).
That eventually became his name and today when the people of Pretoria talk about "Suna Papa" they find it very funny.
We grew up on nicknames and still append them to almost everything. When they are not funny, they can also be very hurtful to the carriers.
A former teacher, who is still very much alive, had an innocuous nickname which, we were later told, simply meant "bush surgeon".
He got to know of it and one day asked the principal to address the pupils at assembly.
He was almost in tears when he pleaded with us to call him Sir or Meneer, and not "insult" him with the nickname.
The assembly burst into uproarious laughter and after that, the nickname stuck to him until, I guess, many pupils even forgot his real name. Shame.
The other person who does not find nicknames funny is a fellow I knew quite well in the Vaal, who had a sinister way of "charming" the girls.
Rather than chat up girls the conventional way, he picked on a most melodramatic gambit which, he thought, made him look and sound superior to the riff-raff.
He thought he was fluent in tsotsi-taal, but what he spoke was classroom Afrikaans, which made him look more square.
His favourite line with the girls was: "Ek het net twee woorde vir jou. Net twee woorde. Luister - Eish san." (I have only two words for you).
He tried that line on several girls without success and soon the whole township called him "Twee Woorde".
It enraged him and the angrier he became the more the barbs came.
When it became really bad, little kids would sneak up behind him in the streets and holler "Twee Woorde" and run away.
He would walk on stoically, holding his head upright, shoulders hunched, hoping for all the dignity he could muster.
Sadly, "Twee Woorde" is no more. He is spreading his love up yonder.