World Cup mascots are like the crazy relative you’ll see once a year at the family Christmas party. You’re required to love them because they are ‘technically’ family but at the same time, they can be extremely off-putting.
When the organizers sat down with their team of designers for Russia 2018, they were under strict instructions to stay away from any images of Vladimir Putin on horseback after having a hard time selling that idea at the Sochi Winter Olympics. With the billions of dollars that were spent greasing the wheels at FIFA, we were hoping they could have asked for the advice from someone at Disney or Pixar. I would even go out on a limb and take back Jar Jar Binks for the 2018 event.
Since 1966 when World Cup Willie made an appearance in England, mascots have become an integral part of the event.
With the 2018 World Cup about to begin, let’s take a look back at some of the more colourful and downright weird creations that were made with the best intentions of inspiring football fans.
If you are one of those people who still have a fear of clowns, look away now.
Zabivka (2018 Russia)
Meet Zabivka, the latest incarnation for the 2018 tournament in one of the coldest parts of the world. The Russian name Zabivaka translates to ‘the one who scores’. While he does look a step-up from the armadillo in Brazil, I have family members who swear he resembles Agent Classified in the Penguins of Madagascar movie.
Fuleco – (2014 Brazil)
The organizers at the tournament in Brazil had asked six of Brazil’s leading advertising agencies to come up with a design that would inspire millions of football fans around the world. If only they had asked a seventh, eighth or even ninth. While Fuleco the armadillo did little to inspire the national team in their 7-1 semi-final drubbing at the hands of Germany, he was meant to shine a light on Brazil’s ongoing environmental issues. His Portuguese name is a reference to football and ecology.
Zakumi – (2010 South Africa)
One of my favourite World Cup mascots would have to be Zakumi. The green haired lion, always had a smile on his face. Zakumi intention was to unite the Africa for its first soccer World Cup and the name means South Africa and ten in several languages on the continent.
Goleo VI & Pille – (2006 Germany)
These two wouldn’t be out of place in a Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland. They were designed for the kids, but two mascots came under intense criticism from a fickle German public who had a hard time that a Lion wearing pants best represented Germany at an international tournament.
Ato, Kaz, Nik – (2002 Korea/Japan)
The story is that these three lads are from the future and play for a football team called ‘Atmoball’. The orange player Ato is the coach and Kaz and Nik are the star players on the team. If you can figure out the connection between the mascots and the two host countries of Korea and Japan, please let us know.
Footix – (1998 France)
If were you are a fan of Asterix and Obelix you may recognise the origins of Footix. The 1998 mascot for the tournament in France is another good effort. He wore the colours of the French flag and the cockerel is acknowledged as the traditional symbol for the French national team.
Striker – (1994 USA)
Throughout American history, there have been memorable dogs such as Lassie, Pluto and Scooby Doo. While Striker didn’t set the world on fire, he was in charge of inspiring the masses with Diana Ross at the opening of the World Cup in 1994. The brainchild of the folks at Warner Brothers the World Cup mascot wore the same colours as the American flag. While Striker didn’t capture global attention for the tournament he did go onto serve a higher purpose as one of the inspirations behind ‘Poochie’ in the Simpsons TV Series.