Gelek King and the Architect: Memorable nicknames for Singapore and foreign sports figures

SINGAPORE - The Architect, Big Aristotle, Mellow Johnny. The art of name-calling thrives among athletes in both a humorous and menacing manner. Often, those witty nicknames would give us a taste of the athlete's personality.

Here are a few memorable ones:

The 'Gelek' King

Dollah Kassim, former national footballer. 

The late Dollah Kassim was known for his superior dribbling skills, hence the nickname 'Gelek' which may be translated to 'The belly dancing king'.

Six Feet of Sunshine

Do not be fooled by the name, Kerri Walsh Jennings could knock the daylight out of you. Standing at a towering 1.88m, the American beach volleyball player is known for her devastating offensive play and has three Olympic gold medals in her collection.

Flying Fish

Singaporean swimmer Neo Chwee Kwok earned the moniker after winning four gold medals at the inaugural Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951.


Australian tennis player Ken Rosewall, 45, 
outplayed his younger fellow countryman
Tony Roche, 34, (not in picture), in the Wilson Battle of the Superstars
at the Singapore Tennis Centre. PHOTO: ST FILE 

Ken Rosewall had speed, tenacity and a deadly volley. Ironically, the legendary Australian tennis player from the 1950s-1970s was small, slight (only 1.7m tall) and lacked what he had as a nickname.

The Chief

Retired basketballer Robert Parish was known for his commanding defence. The versatile centre had a habit of using his 2.13m size and speed to contain opposing players.

Big Aristotle

Shaquille O'Neal, celebrity who wrote children's books.

Four-time NBA Champion Shaquille O'Neal was termed with many nicknames throughout his illustrated career, such as Shaq, Superman and Big Diesel. But the nickname he gave himself was a lot more philosophical: "Aristotle once said, 'Excellence is not a singular act; it's a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.' "

The Architect

Andrea Pirlo, midfielder of Juventus. 

Though strictly having no background in architecture, Andrea Pirlo was given the name for his creative play and ability to shape the game however he wishes.

Hands of Stone

Hard-hitting Panama boxer Roberto Duran is a four-weight world champion, having held titles at lightweight (1972-1979), welterweight (1980), light middleweight (1983-1984), and middleweight (1989).


Steve Waugh, former Australia cricket captain, at Singapore Cricket Club. 

The former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh was nicknamed the Tugga for the tough manner in which he played the sport.

Afghan or Afghanistan

Steve Waugh's brother, Mark, though talented, was not as celebrated. He was known as Afghanistan because he was The Forgotten War/Waugh.

The Preston Plumber

English footballer Tom Finney's father apparently insisted he finish his apprenticeship as a plumber. The Preston North End winger was doing this even when he first began playing for England in 1946.

The Big Easy

South African Ernie Els was not happy with his short game during the third round of the 2013 Venetian Macau Open. 

Ernie Els, South Africa's champion golfer and former world no.1, was a large man with a very smooth swing, making it look too easy.

Iron Nose

Quah Zheng Wen of Singapore reacting after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games men's 100m butterfly heats at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Aug 11, 2016. 

If a medicine ball were to drop on someone's nose, he would probably squeal in pain. But if he doesn't, chances are his teammates will dub you as the Iron Nose. Homegrown swimmer Quah Zheng Wen not only has an iron nose, but also an iron will, as he claimed seven gold medals in the 2015 SEA games.


Chia Boon Leong, former national footballer. 

The former footballer Chia Boon Leong was given the name for his excellence in football. In April 1948, The Sunday Tribune (Singapore) described Chia as "swift as a hare, with brilliant ball control and unlimited stamina as his chief assets, he is a schemer of immense value to any forward line".

Flying Housewife

Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen won four golds at the 1948 Olympics as a 30-year-old mother of two. Her medals were in the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4x100m relay.

Correction note: In our earlier story, we had erroneously referred to former Singapore footballer Chia Boon Leong as "the late former footballer Chia Boon Leong". We are sorry for the error.