Football's big names are 'Little Wife' and 'Busty' to China fans

Peter STEBBINGS
Brazil midfielder Paulinho, who plays for Guangzhou Evergrande, is known as 'Violent Bird' in an approving nod to his all-action style

Mesut Ozil is "Little Wife", Paul Pogba is "Busty" and Jose Mourinho is called "Magic Bird" -- Chinese fans and media have conjured up creative and bizarre nicknames for many of the world's best-known football figures.

There is also "Very Homesick Boy" (Carlos Tevez), "Little Puppy" (Kylian Mbappe) and "Violent Bird" (Paulinho).

Chinese is expressed using idiomatic characters rather than an alphabet, making it difficult to use the language to transliterate some foreign names.

That means that while someone like England striker Harry Kane or Lionel Messi keep their names in China because they are fairly simple to pronounce, many others have not been so lucky.

It is often an indication of how popular a player is in China.

Argentine forward Tevez, who has never stayed at one club for long during his up-and-down career, had a disastrous 12-month spell in the Chinese Super League (CSL) with Shanghai Shenhua.

His inability to settle anywhere out of Argentina earned him the unflattering "Very Homesick Boy".

Likewise for the creative Arsenal midfielder Ozil, mockingly known as "Little Wife" because of the perception in China that the German -- who recently quit international football, citing "racism and disrespect" -- is timid.

Wayne Rooney similarly may not wish to read any further because the former England forward, who was once close to a move to China but now plays in the United States, is dubbed "Xiaopang" -- "Little Fatty", although that is more affectionate than offensive.

Chinese football fans are much kinder to players or coaches they like.

Paul Pogba is "Busty" because his surname sounds like the word for that in Chinese, while Mourinho -- the Frenchman's boss at Manchester United -- is similar to the Chinese phrase for "Magic Bird".

China's popular Italian coach Marcello Lippi is "Silver Fox" on account of his grey hair and Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Paulinho was bestowed the moniker "Violent Bird" in an approving nod to his all-action style.

Then there is Alexandre Pato, the Brazilian forward who has rebuilt his career in China at Tianjin Quanjian.

The 28-year-old posts often on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, and is seen as integrating into life in the country much better than many of the well-paid foreign players.

That has earned him the respectful title "Pa Jianguo" -- a patriotic nickname that partly translates as "build the country", recognising his fondness for his adopted homeland.

Mbappe, the 19-year-old starlet who took the World Cup by storm, is lovingly called "Little Puppy" because of his tender years.

It is not just footballers who get the name treatment.

Tennis great Roger Federer is fondly called "Cow" in China, partly because of his laid-back demeanour, while Jennifer Lopez's well-known posterior has earned her the designation "Luo Ba".

That means "Lord of Butt".