Every four years, somewhere in the world, a very special event takes place. Suddenly, whole countries stop, traffic jams ease, and streets and pubs get filled with screams and curses. Everybody gets unapologetically patriotic, people reminisce of old times, old matches, and the beer magically tastes just amazing. What’s the occasion, you might ask?
Of course, it’s the FIFA World Cup tournament – one of the most popular worldwide events, taking place every four years in a different country. It’s the biggest celebration for all football fans worldwide, regardless of nationality, race, or religion. Some are lucky enough to get the tickets and see the game live – others search the web for a good live football streaming platform or desperately fix their antennas to get the best connection. What all of them have in common is a deep love for football.
Many of us more or less know how the FIFA World Cup is celebrated. However, only the most devoted football fans know about certain traditions cultivated in the FIFA World Cup throughout the years. One of them is choosing the official World Cup mascot for each event.
Just as the hosting countries change every four years, so does the mascot. However, it is always designed in a way that corresponds to the culture of a given nation. Let’s see together how the World Cup mascots have been changing over the years, starting from the first one – born in 1966.
World Cup Willie – England, 1966
World Cup Willie was the lion mascot created by Reg Hoye for the 1966 World Cup in England. The origin of the very first mascot stems from the UK’s tradition and its national symbol – a lion.
Juanito – Mexico, 1970
The Mexican mascot was a boy wearing a sombrero and Mexico’s kit. Juanito – with his typical Mexican outfit and a familiar Mexican male name – was meant to represent every Mexican football lover.
Tip and Tap – Germany, 1974
At the time of the event, Germany was still split in half into East and West. Thus, the official mascot was composed of two boys – Tip and Tap – wearing the sports uniforms with “WM 74″ imprinted. The mysterious inscription – Weltmeisterschaft 74 – translates to “World Cup” and the tournament year.
Gauchito – Argentina, 1978
Gauchito, the Argentinian mascot, was a boy wearing Argentina’s kit. Gauchito had attributes of a gaucho – a horseman figure typical of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brasil – such as a neckerchief and a whip.
Naranjito – Spain, 1982
The official mascot of the tournament in Spain was an orange (naranja in Spanish), a fruit typical for this sunny country. The orange was wearing football shoes and holding a ball in hand. The big, round fruit also had the hosts’ national team’s kit.
Pique – Mexico, 1986
The mascot of yet another tournament that took place in Mexico was Pique – a jalapeño pepper, known very well in Mexican cuisine. Its name “Pique” stems from picante, meaning spicy. It was one of the World Cup’s humoristic mascots, looking very friendly with a mustache and a sombrero.
Ciao – Italy, 1990
Ciao was quite an innovative mascot – it was actually a stick figure in the Italian flag colors. Instead of his head, there was a football. Its name is a typical Italian word used for greeting.
Striker (The World Cup Pup) – USA, 1994
Striker, like the name World Cup Pup suggests, was a dog – the most beloved US pet. Striker wore the football uniform in the American flag colors (red, white, blue) with the words “USA 94″.
Footix – France, 1998
The French mascot was a cockerel – a traditional symbol of this country. Footix’s body and the football he held were in the French flag colors – blue, red, and white, similar to the national team kit. Its name came from combining the word “Foot” and suffix “-ix” shared among the Gauls.
Ato, Kaz, and Nik (The Spheriks) – South Korea/Japan, 2002
Ato, Kaz, and Nik were computer-generated figures in orange, blue, and purple colors. As the story goes, they were part of a fictional sports team called “Atmoball”; Ato was the coach, while Kaz and Nik were the players. The mascot was meant to be innovative and futuristic, just as the hosting countries are.
Goleo VI (sidekick – Pille) – Germany, 2006
Goleo was a lion wearing a Germany shirt, whereas Pille was the football he was holding. The mascot’s name comes from a combination of the words “goal” and “leo”. Pille, however, means football in German slang.
Zakumi – South Africa, 2010
The cheerful mascot dancing to Waka Waka was Zakumi – a leopard wearing South African colors uniform (yellow and green). A leopard is a common animal in South Africa, whereas his name Zakumi came from combining the words “Za” (meaning South Africa) and “Kumi” (meaning ten in some African languages).
Fuleco – Brazil, 2014
Fuleco was a product of Brazil’s concerns with biodiversity and environmental issues. He was a three-banded Camarillo – a species found solely in Brazil – and his name “Fuleco” combined the Portugisian words meaning “football” and “ecology.”
Zabivaka – Russia, 2018
Zabivaka, with its name translated from Russian as “the one who scores,” was a wolf wearing the colors of the Russian national football team – white, blue, and red.
What about Qatar, 2022?
The next official FIFA World Cup mascot is to be announced by the end of 2020. Will it be funny and humoristic, or rather futuristic and creative? As for now, all we can do is wait and see.
Although there are still many questions regarding this event, one thing we know for sure – its official mascot will be a great accompaniment to the incredible football emotions. When the championships take place, besides shouting and admiring the game, don’t forget to look for a fun mascot somewhere on the pitch field!