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Imorou backs Benin to change from Squirrels to ‘classy and charismatic Cheetahs’

19:47 GMT+3 25/08/2022
Benin vs Senegal 2022.
Previous attempts to adopt a new name were not successful, but it’s now possible after the re-election of their FA president

Former Benin international Emmanuel Imorou has backed the call to change the national team name from Squirrels to a scarier one.

Previous attempts to have the adoption of a new name were not successful, but with the re-election of Mathurin de Chacus as Benin Football Federation president, it is now a possibility as he has the intention of having the side become the Guepards (Cheetahs).

A first attempt to change the name was made in 2008 and 10 years later, in 2018, when Steve Mounie, a former Huddersfield Town striker, suggested the national team should be called the Pythons.

The proposed switch is awaiting approval by the government of the West African country, and the former Chateauroux, Clermont, and Caen left-back explains the need to have the name change.

"Calling us the Squirrels was not really scary for our opponents," Imorou told BBC Sport Africa. "Cheetahs are feared but are also classy animals with some charisma.

"Saying that our opponents will get on the pitch with their legs shaking, I'm not so sure!

"I really like it. I didn't hear from my ex-teammates yet, but I think that we have the same opinion on this."

Many African national teams are identified by animal names. Uganda are known as the Cranes, Cameroon are called Indomitable Lions, Ivory Coast the Elephants, and The Gambia are Scorpions.

Former African champions Nigeria go by the name Super Eagles while Botswana are known as the Zebras.

"When we see our opponents being called the Lions or the Elephants, we thought it would be good to have a name that is a bit scarier," the 33-year-old continued.

Imorou believes the change in their name will propel the national team to a good start. In the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification, Benin have lost their first two qualifiers.

"If you manage to come up with a new nice logo, one that emits what Cheetahs emit; class, fear, and speed - those are the first things that come to my mind - we're off to a good start," Imorou, who was part of the 2019 Afcon squad that was eliminated in the quarter-finals, continued.

Squirrels was coined in the 1960s to reflect a small nation aiming to climb high. Despite those aspirations, Benin have never qualified for the World Cup and have been to the Afcon tournament on four occasions; 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2019.