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Name is the rule of the soccer game!

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 12:15 IST

They say it's all about talent, skill and fitness. Do not be fooled. When it comes to footballing stardom, looks and names count just as much.

A quick survey of the teams that have made it to the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup reveals that their biggest stars are either heartthrobs or have attractively simple names.

Take hosts Germany, for instance. There is little doubt about who is their number-one hero: Michael Ballack not only has a nice name, he also sports killer blue eyes and an enviable physique.

By contrast, fellow midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is no classic hunk and also has a rather unappealing surname that literally translates as pig-climber. The poor fellow has little chance of reaching football's all-time hall of fame with a name like that.

Brazilians, of course, know all about the need for easy-to-remember names.

Their all-time greatest was simply known as Pele, while today's stars all have melodic appellatives like Ronaldo or Ronaldinho. Neither of them may be hunks, true, but one can't have everything all of the time.

Brazil's sexiest, according to an unscientific poll of international female reporters currently present in Germany, is Kaka.

His real name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite but the 24-year-old shortened it to Kaka, reportedly because his younger brother Rodrigo couldn't pronounce the name Ricardo.

Though short and simple, Kaka's nickname is unfortunate to many. And the Brazilian may easily have reconsidered his decision had he known he would end up playing in Italy one day.

Former Lazio owner Sergio Cragnotti recently revealed he did not sign up Kaka a few years back only because of the scatological connotations his name would evoke in Rome. AC Milan fans, of course, don't seem to mind that, given what he's given them back in terms of spectacular football.

Not surprisingly, surveys of the World Cup's sexiest footballers currently flying about on the Internet list half of the Italian team in their top 20.

They include captain Fabio Cannavaro, playmaker Alessandro Del Piero and star defender Alessandro Nesta.

None of these surveys include the coarse Gennaro Gattuso and the plain Simone Perrotta, Italy's lesser-known stars.

Also working against the two midfielders may be the fact that their names make for an odd combination in Spanish-speaking countries - "gato" means "cat" and "perro" means "dog" in their language.

Argentina's greatest star is Lionel Messi. Another young Argentinian, striker Carlos Tevez, may also have a bright future in front of him, but he's probably not counting on his looks.

About 99 percent of the female population loves David Beckham, of course. But what about Peter Crouch? Ouch! An Internet posting on ugly players at the 2006 World Cup has this to say about him: "Tall? Check! Dark? Erm, no! Handsome? Pass!"

Portugal have their fair share of good-looking stars, starting with Luis Figo (whose name, incidentally, means "cool" in Roman dialect) and Cristiano Ronaldo, recently named the World Cup's sexiest player by a Dutch gay magazine.

Playmaker Deco might not be able to match the charm of his teammates, but he certainly has a nice and easy-to-remember name.

There is little controversy about who is Ukraine's sexiest: Andriy Shevchenko - "the czar" - beats the rest of the squad hands down.

And as far as France are concerned, would Zinedine Zidane still be famous if it weren't for his melodic name and distinctive looks?