Hakim Ziyech of Ajax during the UEFA Champions League semifinal second-leg match against Tottenham Hotspur on May 08 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Photo: VCG
When most people think of Fantasy Football, the first thing that comes to mind is the hardest decision of all: What to name your team.
Unlike picking the players, you only get one shot. There is no wild card to do it over twice per season. Instead, football teams tend to date back their original inception but for a few notable exceptions where clubs have merged, moved or been taken over.
With many football clubs dating back well over a century, especially in Europe and South America, there’s a distinctly traditional flavor to some of their names. Some even have a classical bent, taking in the mythology of their region and the tales that have survived the ages.
So who are these clubs and where can they be found? Let’s start in the Netherlands and arguably the most famous of them all.
Amsterdamsche Football Club Ajax – Netherlands
Ajax Amsterdam, as they appear more often in the English-speaking world, were founded in March 1900 by Floris Stempel, Carel Reeser and Han Dade. The trio decided to name their new club after the mythological hero Ajax, who fought in the Trojan War. “Strong shielded” Ajax as he was called by Homer in The Iliad, was picked because of the manner of his death. The Greek hero died by suicide, so was undefeated. They are the most successful club in the country and have finished as champions of Europe on four occasions. Last season they reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League where they lost to Tottenham Hotspur in dramatic fashion.
The number in their name comes from the year of founding – 1929 – while the name comes from the greatest warrior in Greek mythology. The Groesbeek-based club are famed for their cup exploits.
Another team that has chosen to associate itself with Hercules, who is perhaps the most labored mythological figure when it comes to team names. Zeus’ son’s name was taken in 1903 when the club was formed in Almelo. Twice champions of the Netherlands, this was long before the current Eredivisie was formed but they have become top flight mainstays in recent years.
Idrottsklubben Sleipner – Sweden
The Norrkoping-based side are named after the mythical horse Sleipnir, Odin’s steed in Norse mythology. Founded in 1903 the side won the Allsvenskan in 1938 but are to be found in the Swedish second tier these days. Sadly for them their local rivals IFK Norrkoping have overshadowed them on the national stage and in the hearts of locals.
Wellington Phoenix Football Club – New Zealand
Formed in March 2007, the Phoenix first took part in the Australian A-League in the 2007-08 season and have remained there ever since. They replaced the New Zealand Knights in competing over the Tasman Sea and it was this rebirth that inspired the choice of the legendary bird that rises from the ashes out of the hundreds of fan submissions. They are one of the few clubs in world football to be based in a different confederation than the one they play their “domestic” football.
Apollon Limassol – Cyprus
It is fitting that the king of the Greek gods finds himself close to home. Founded in 1954, the club are considered one of the biggest on the island and have won the league crown three times plus nine cups. Still, they are overshadowed by local rivals AEL Limassol, the city’s biggest club. The pair share their home ground with the city’s other team, Aris Limassol, a team named after Ares, the god of war, that play in the Cypriot second tier.
Iraklis FC – Greece
The Thessaloniki-based club was founded in 1908 as the Macedonian Gymnastics Club but took the name Iraklis after the Greek semi-god Heracles a year later. They are one of the oldest teams in Greece but currently play their football in the country’s third tier. Still, they have plenty of past glories including five regional league titles, one national cup in 1976 and a Balkans Cup.
Pegasus – Hong Kong
The legendary winged horse is on the Hong Kong club’s badge but the fact that they were founded only in 2008 acts as proof that mythology never goes out of fashion. They were promoted to the top flight in 2015 but “The Flying Horsemen” are yet to trouble the top of the Hong Kong Premier League table. They sit sixth so far in this stop-start season. They have won the Senior Shield, Hong Kong FA Cup twice and the Sapling Cup in their brief history.
Aris Thessaloniki – Greece
Another team named after the Greek god of war, the side play in the Greek top flight and have won the title three times. One of the most popular teams in the country despite their lack of success in recent years.
SV Robinhood – Suriname
The Surninamese side are named after Robin Hood, the legendary English outlaw stole from the rich to give to the poor. They play in the SVB Topklasse, the Dutch Caribbean island’s top flight, and despite being relegated in 2014 they won the league as recently as the 2017-18 season. There is also a Bermudian club named Robin Hood FC.
Club Atlas – Mexico
The Mexican top flight side are named after the Titan who was condemned to carry the world on his shoulders. Their burden has been one of underachievement; the Guadalajara-based side have only won the title once back in 1951.
Atalanta – Italy
Founded in 1907 and nicknamed La Dea (“The Goddess”), the Bergamo-based club were named after the athlete from Greek mythology. This year they are competing in the UEFA Champions League for the first time having finished third in Serie A last season.
Lech Poznan – Poland
Based in Poznan, the club are named after Lech, the legendary founder of Poland. They play in the top flight, last winning it in 2015, and are the most popular team in Greater Poland.
Hercules CF – Spain
The Alicante-based side have fallen down to the Spanish Segunda Division in recent years but some of the biggest names in the world have played for them over the years, including World Cup winners David Trezeguet and Mario Kempes. Other big names to have called “The Greeks” home include Dutch winger Royston Drenthe and Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski.