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Rajiv van La Parra: The Best Name in World Soccer?

August 21st, 2017 · 1 Comment · English Premier League, Football, soccer

What a great name!

In full it is Rajiv Ramon van La Parra, but usually it is written without the “Ramon”.

He is a Netherlands-born soccer player for Huddersfield Town of the English Premier League. He has been in the first XI of Huddersfield’s two games this league season, both victories, and that has raised his public profile.

High enough that some people see his name and think … “what is that about?”

What is remarkable about his name is the expression of three clearly separate cultural groups. The first being “Rajiv”, the second being “van” and the third “La Parra”.

Let’s see if we can shed any light on this remarkable name.

We begin by acknowledging that a name like this is quite unusual. Stipulated.

His first name is clearly Indian. A recent prime minister of India was named Rajiv Gandhi and, in fact, the player says he was named for that politician — who was assassinated on May 21, 1991, 15 days before Van La Parra was born, in the Netherlands city of Rotterdam.

The Rajiv part of his name has excited interest among some soccer fans in India, who have wondered whether the player is of Indian extraction and might be eligible to play for India’s national team.

Alas, Van La Parra denied an India connection in a 2015 interview with an English newspaper. Apparently, his mother had a positive impression of Rajiv Gandhi and decided to name her son after him.

Van La Parra was quoted as saying: “When people hear my name, they think I am from India but that’s not true. My parents are from Suriname,” referring to a former colony of the Netherlands.

Why might his mother have been a fan of Rajiv Gandhi? In part because people of Indian origin who moved to Suriname in recent centuries make up a plurality of the 550,000 or so people living in the South American country.

Online posters from India also suggest Suriname had been a significant recipient of support from India Aid.

OK, so Van La Parra is not Indian. What about the rest of his name?

“Van” is a Dutch word meaning “from” and is often used in front of a family name. Such as former Arsenal and Netherlands standout Robin van Persie.

Many languages have similar forms used to indicate “from” or “of”, which appear in the family name. The “Al” in Arabic names, for instance; the “Von” in some German names, the “La” or “Le” in Spanish, Italian or French names. Etc.

Somewhere, over the years, an ancestor of Rajiv van La Parra decided to add the “van” to the name. Perhaps to make it sound Dutch?

This is where we note that Suriname was, for several centuries, a Netherlands colony and most people there speak a variety of Dutch.

So, our player has an Indian given name and a Dutch word as part of his family name.

What about the La Parra, then?

As noted, “La” is an “of” or “from” name in relation to Parra — which is generally a Spanish name, a common one, at that.

“Parra” in Spanish apparently means “wine bower” or “trellis” — suggesting someone who cultivated grapes or perhaps came from an area where grapes were produced.

Unlike Dutch, which lower-cases “van”, in instances when it is not royal, the Spanish tend to cap-up “La” when it is part of a name. As is the case with our soccer player.

So, how does that name get in the kid’s name?

It could go back centuries. The Dutch-speaking parts of the Netherlands and what is now Belgium had a very long war with occupying Spanish troops, 1566 to 1648.

It does not seem unreasonable to suggest that a Spaniard named La Parra was in the Low Countries for some of that war and attached the “van” to his name to make him seem a bit more Dutch — without giving up the Spanish name. (And not worrying that “van la” could be translated as “from from”. Redundant, that is.)

Then, that name is somehow carried from the Netherlands to its colony in South America and now we have families of “van La Parras” in the New World.

The final thread to this is … that Van La Parra considers himself of African-Surinamese heritage. But we can perhaps explain that by noting that a significant number of the people living in Suriname are descended from African slaves brought in by Dutch settlers.

More than a few people of this demographic have taken up soccer, in Suriname or after moving to the Netherlands, and have had significant success.

Among them: Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert and, more recently, Ryan Babel, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Georginio Wijnaldum — and Rajiv van La Parra.

None of those other guys had names as complicated, nor as fun.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Douglas Kiambi // Nov 7, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Georginio Wijnaldum and rajiv van la parra are half brothers but am not sure which parent the two share.

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