Why Is “Dundee United” an Insult in Nigeria?

Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Nigeria. As well as following the domestic leagues and the fortunes of the Super Eagles themselves, there is also a strong fanbase for European football, in particular the English Premier League. In fact, football betting in Nigeria more often than not concentrates on the best teams in England and how they fare from week to week.

Scottish football, however, often flies under the radar in Nigeria. This, despite the fact that one of the teams currently playing in the Scottish Premiership, Dundee United, has entered the local lexicon as slang for “idiot”. How did this bizarre turn of events come to be? Why is Dundee United used colloquially as an insult, and are Nigerians even aware that the word originally referred to a football club in Scotland? To solve the riddle of the mystery, it’s necessary to look back through time.

Dundee United in its heyday

Established in 1909, Dundee United is one of the oldest clubs in Scotland.They’re also one of the most decorated on the domestic stage, having lifted the league title once and bagged two Scottish Cups and two League Cups, as well. But despite the fact that they’ve never claimed European silverware, there was a time when their name was feared in continental competition.

Indeed, Dundee United hold the unlikely record of being the only team in world football to have a 100% record over Barcelona FC over more than one match. They’ve played the Spanish heavyweights a grand total of four times across two ties, one in 1966 and one in 1987. They won all four games, being the only team to have done so against Barça in history.

An ill-fated tour

More than 30 years have passed since those halcyon days and Dundee United’s reputation has fallen somewhat sharply in the interim, nowhere more so than in Nigeria. Indeed, the origins of their ignominy in the African nation can be traced back to a 1972 tour of the country, when the team of well-paid and highly-respected professionals from Scotland won one, drew two and lost two against amateur teams in Nigeria.

So disappointing was their performance that the national press ran headlines with the words “Don’t Come Back” emblazoned on their back pages. In fact, one newspaper even called for a public inquiry into why the team had been invited to come to Nigeria in the first place, with other daily periodicals barely any kinder to the sorry Scots who made the journey.

An enduring reputation

It’s believed that this was the occasion on which “Dundee United” became a byword for idiocy and incompetence, first coined by the Yoruba people of western African and now common parlance among the entire population of Nigeria. It’s almost half a century since that dismal Dundee United tour, and although the origins of the idiom are unbeknownst to most Nigerians, the term is still commonly used today.

Indeed, many people interviewed over the story expressed surprise at the idea that a club would decide to name itself with such a depreciating moniker, not realising that the football team preceded the nickname by a good 60 years. Regardless, it’s a title that has stuck, so any Dundee United fans who plan to holiday in Nigeria would be well-advised to leave their orange strips at home for fear of ridicule at the hands of their hosts.

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