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South Africa may have to drop Bafana Bafana nickname

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

JOHANNESBURG -- South Africa may have to drop its Bafana Bafana nickname because of copyright issues.

The South African Football Association is involved in a dispute with a local businessman who acquired the rights to the name in 1994. SAFA made a reported $10 million profit from the name during the World Cup.

"I want to avoid saying we are very angry about it," South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani said Thursday. "We are worried about it. We are concerned."

He said the future of the nickname was being discussed "at a national level."

Nematandani suggested the Bafana Bafana name, which SAFA uses on much of its official literature and is the popular term in South Africa for the national team, would have to be changed despite being "a national asset."

SAFA began an extended legal battle in 1997 to claim rights over Bafana Bafana, but South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed in 2002 a SAFA motion that it had rights over Bafana Bafana.

There is no indication the current owners of the brand will sue SAFA for using the term, but the country's soccer association is unable to market it and make money from it.

The issue has also reached South Africa's parliament in Cape Town.

On Tuesday, the chairman of the influential parliamentary committee on sport said Bafana should be changed if the copyright issue wasn't resolved, forcing SAFA to address the problem.

"We brought it up because we felt that it was not doing us any good as an association," Nematandani said at SAFA's headquarters next door to the Soccer City stadium -- the venue for the World Cup final.

Speaking at a press conference to outline new South Africa coach Pitso Mosimane's vision for the future of the national team, Nematandani said the public could be asked to choose a new nickname.

"It clearly has to be done the right way, but we cannot go on in this way. It is not proper, it is not correct," the SAFA president said. "The name of Bafana Bafana came from the public and we are throwing the ball back to the public."

Bafana Bafana means "the boys, the boys" in Zulu.

It is thought to have been used in the early 1990s by journalists in Soweto to refer to the national team after it was readmitted into international soccer after apartheid.

It was quickly picked up and is the affectionate name by which South African fans refer to their team.

In an Internet poll, it was voted one of the words of the recent World Cup -- along with vuvuzela.