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Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 18:06 UK

From Squirrels to Panthers?

A squirrel in a London park
A small animal that can climb high - just like Benin?

The nickname of the Benin national team, Les Ecureuils, translates into English as "The Squirrels" - and now the country's sports ministry has decided it simply is not fearsome enough.

Instead sports minister Ganiou Soglo has suggested a more intimidatory name - the "Emerging Panthers".

The Squirrels tag was coined in the 1960s - apparently because it evoked a small animal which can climb high.

But Mr Soglo said the image conjured up is more likely to be that of a timid creature.

"We were asked about it last year in parliament by lawmakers and they reproached us for making national teams bear the name of an animal which runs off when it is afraid," he said.

"We are going to suggest to the government the name 'Emerging Panthers'."

Benin's nickname may not strike fear into the heart of their opponents, but it has not hampered the players on the pitch.

They are one of the few teams to have already made sure of their place in the last round of qualifying for the 2010 World and Africa Cup of Nations.

Supporters in Cotonou have mixed feelings about the proposed name change.

"In football, people use war words such as strike, defence, strategy. Changing the name of the team would make part of the renewal and I think it's a good thing," one fan told BBC Sport.

But another fan had a differing view:

"Does the name make the team, whether it's 'Squirrels' or 'Mice'? The thing is not to change the name but to work harder so that we will have a better team," he said.

see also
2010 World Cup Qualifiers
22 Jun 08 |  African
Omotoyossi confident for Benin
08 Sep 08 |  African
Benin, Cameroon in second phase
07 Sep 08 |  African

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