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Through the ages: FIFA World Cup mascots

Written by: Rohan Philip

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The mascots are counted as an important part of the tournament. 

As the club season draws to a close, player and fans alike, from all over the globe shift their attention to the World Cup 2018. Since its inception in 1966, the World Cup has represented the pinnacle of a player’s career. However, beyond the actual game, the competition brings so much more to the nation that is granted the honour of hosting it.

The World’s biggest International footballing competition brings with it the attention of the fans of the beautiful game, the world over. It is a chance for the hosts to show off their culture, their people, their food and their country for all to see. Each of the editions of the quadrennial competition has been assigned a mascot that epitomizes the best features of the host nation and is tasked with inspiring a wider population to take an interest in the extravaganza that is the FIFA World Cup.

Khel Now takes a look at how the FIFA World Cup mascots have evolved over the years.

World Cup Willie

World Cup Willie was the mascot of FIFA World Cup 1966

Perhaps the most iconic mascot of the World Cups. Willie is a lion donning the Union Jack in all its glory, and was the mascot of the FIFA World Cup in 1966. Willie was designed by conjured up by the imagination of one of Enid Blyton’s illustrators, a commercial artist by the name of Reg Hoye.

The 12-year-old son of the artist served as the inspiration for World Cup Willie, who soon would be seen on everything from flags to tea cosies. While Reg Hoye passed away in 1987, his legacy lives on through the memory of his dearest creation.

Juanito

Mexico was given the responsibility of hosting the next edition of the competition in 1970 and the mascot that they chose was dubbed Juanito. He was a little boy sporting a sombrero and the Mexican National Jersey, with the words Mexico 70 Emblazoned across it.

Juanito was intended to bring out the fun and joy that the game brought, through the beaming face of a child. He succeeded in doing so, winning the hearts of millions of fans around the world.

Tip and Tap

Tip and Tap was the iconic mascot of World Cup 1974

The 1974 World Cup held in Germany, was graced by the presence of two mascots, in the form of two little footballing boys, named Tip and Tap. The Germans had followed Mexico’s lead and chosen to go with human mascots over an animal one. The boys carried a message with them, Germany was unified and proud. They donned German football kits, with WM and 74 written on them.

Gauchito

Gauchito had a striking resemblance with Juanito

The mascot of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, was the target of a large amount of criticism for his striking resemblance to Juanito. Like the Mexican mascot, Gauchito was a little boy, wearing the football kit of the South American nation.

However, there were a few differences, Gauchito wore attire that was typical of the boys that would play on the streets of Argentina, with a neckerchief and a whip in his hand. His purpose was to show off the flair for which Argentina is renowned.

Narangito

Narangito is one of the most fondly remembered World Cup mascots of all time

Spain took what is perhaps the biggest step away from the usual norm for the design of the World Cup mascots in 1982. Narangito was an instant hit amongst fans all over the world who fell in love with his bright beaming smile and his rotund body. He remains one of the most fondly remembered mascots of all time.

Pique

Pique was a huge hit in the World Cup 1986

On their second bite of the World Cup apple in 1986, Mexico came out with Pique, the cheery jalapeño pepper. Chosen to represent fiery cuisine and indeed culture of the Mexicans, Pique quickly endeared himself to the fans through his over-sized sombrero and prominent and exaggerated moustache. His name was derived from the word ‘Picante’, referring to the sauces in Mexico.  

Ciao

Ciao remains one of the most unusual World Cup mascots to this day

In 1990, Italy introduced to the world one of the most bizarre mascots the world has ever seen. Ciao is a stick figure whose body bore the colours of the Italian tricolour topped off with a football for a head. The mascot was chosen to represent the amalgamation of sport, art and architecture in the Italian culture.

Striker

The World Cup hosted by the USA saw the introduction of the larger than life dog, Striker as the mascot for the tournament. The hosts went all out for Striker having the world-famous Warner Bros studio do the design for the mascot who donned the colours of the American flag. He was intended to represent the joy and energy that the game brings with it.

Footix

Footix gained massive popularity in the World Cup 1998

France decided to choose Fabrice Pialot’s cockerel as their mascot for the 1998 world cup. The bird can also be seen on the current crest of the Les Bleus. With its bright blue body and red crest, Footix epitomized all that the French are about, flair, panache and class. Needless to say, he was a big hit with the public.


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The Spheriks

The Spheriks were the first mascots of the 21st Century

The first World Cup after the turn of the millennium was graced by mascots as new and futuristic as the view of the future in the minds of people at the time. Joint hosts, Japan and Korea came together to create the Spheriks, Ato, Kaz and Nik along with their story wherein Ato was a coach and Kaz and Nik were his students.

Goleo and Pille

Goleo and Pille was criticized for not being indigenous to Germany

For the second time, Germany brought to the world a duo as its mascots for 2006. Goleo the lion and his talking football, Pille was aimed at getting a younger demographic interested in the game. While they did face a lot of criticism for not being indigenous to Germany, the duo did garner a lot of interest and are fondly remembered by fans.

Zakumi

Zakumi was the official FIFA World Cup 2010 mascot

In 2010, South Africa brought to the world one of the most intricately designed mascots in the history of the competition. Zakumi the leopard sported a simple jersey with beautifully marbled skin and green hair, representing the colours of the national team.

Za is a code for South Africa and kumi means ten in many African languages so it signifies South Africa 2010. The Green and Yellow colours that were used in the mascot can also be seen in the South African National Football Team's jersey.

Fuleco

Fuelco is probably the most loved World Cup mascot ever

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was one of the most vibrant in recent history. The whole country came together to show off its beauty and love for life. This was translated into the design of its mascot, Fuleco.

The three-banded armadillo served a purpose greater than just showing off the country’s culture. It also raised awareness about the threat the environment is facing, in an attempt to transcend the traditional purpose of a mascot. Fuleco was a huge success among children and adults alike.

Zabivka

Zabivka the wolf is the official mascot of FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia

Finally, we meet Zabivka the wolf, who will be the mascot for the upcoming World Cup held in Russia. Zabivka was created to not only entertain crowds at the stadiums but to also serve as an ambassador for Russia. The name Zabivka loosely translates to “The one who scores” and is an apt description of this character who radiates joy and cheer.

While their designs and styles have changed and evolved over the years, all the mascots retain their charm and relatability and go a long way to reaching out to the public, making this competition that is the pinnacle of the beautiful game accessible to all.

Published: Thu May 17, 2018 12:43 PM IST

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