The Mascot World Cup

There have been 12 different World Cup mascots since Willie swaggered onto the scene in 1966. But which of these creations of varying preposterousness is the best with a ball at their foot or paw?


World Cup Willie (England 1966)The first ever tournament emblem was a square-shouldered, hard-nut big cat called Willie who wore a Union Jack flag and looked like he’d break your arm with a pool cue if you spilled his pint.

Juanito (Mexico 1970)Mexico’s mascot think-tank didn’t muck about finding an image to represent their land, plumping immediately for a lad in a comedy sombrero. Pot-bellied Juanito ended up looking curiously Chinese.

Tip and Tap (West Germany 1974)Want to see some rabbits, boys? Germany’s rosy-cheeked duo resembled the unfortunate victims of a 1970s infomercial warning children about not accepting sweeties from suspicious men at the school gates. Disturbing.

Gauchito (Argentina 1978)Argentina opted for a miniature cowboy (‘gaucho’) wearing a hat and neckerchief as their emblem. The strangely Maradona-esque scamp carries a whip to extend his handballing capabilities.

Naranjito (Spain 1982)Naranja means orange in Spanish, meaning this little chap’s name is basically ‘Orange-o’: a shoddy moniker by anyone’s standards. Orange-o has a sinister round face, and is 10 times bigger than his football, making him a very large fruit indeed.

Pique (Mexico 1986)Controversially, the second consecutive mascot to also be a foodstuff. The Mexicans stuck with their trusty sombrero formula, this time creating a living, breathing jalepeno pepper man with a massive 'tache to don the national headgear.

Ciao (Italy 1990)History’s crappest mascot looks like the result of a brainstorming session held by troubled infants. The result is a disgracefully basic stick figure man with a ball for a head and body painted like the Italian flag.

Striker the World Cup Pup (USA 1994)Disney’s lawyers must have been twitching when this smug-looking all-American hound was unveiled. Thankfully, we were spared a cartoon of his soccer antics, but he certainly looks confident in his skills.

Footix (France 1998)The bastard child of Woody Woodpecker and a Smurf, Footix’s rooster claws have morphed into boots, allowing him increased kicking prowess. His name – a portmanteau of “football” and “Asterix” –translates as “Footbally”. Rubbish.

Ato, Kaz and Nik (Japan and Korea 2002)Korean and Japan’s hallucinogenic efforts were collectively known as The Spheriks. Selected from a shortlist by McDonalds customers, they looked like The Fimbles with radiation poisoning and a skin condition.

Goleo VI and Pille (Germany 2006)Gol means goal! Leo means lion! Put ‘em together and what have you got? Goal Lion! This cumbersome oaf wore a Germany shirt and no shorts (naughty Goal Lion!) and was accompanied by comedy sidekick Pille, which means “ball”.

Zakumi (South Africa 2010)The new kid on the block, Zakumi is a green-haired leopard. ZA’ stands for South Africa, while “kumi” means 10 in various tribal languages. Vaguely androgynous, he’staken a back seat to the vuvuzela as the cultural icon on this tourna.....PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARP!!!



World Cup Willie (England) v Gauchito (Argentina)A barrio boy with a neckerchief and a spatula represents no competition for a grizzled, 250-kilo killing machine. Willie advances to the second round after gnawing off his opponent’s head.

Goleo (Germany) vs Tip and Tap (Germany)The Teutonic derby is settled as the bare-midriffed jailbait brothers are disqualified for fielding too many players. Naïve.

Juanito (Mexico) vs Pique (Mexico)A spicy derby? No. There’s a convincing victory for Juanito here: regardless of how chubby he may be, a boy will always defeat a pepper in a game of football. Pique resembles neither pepper nor man, and is only 50 per cent bigger than the ball itself. It was never going to happen.

Striker (USA) vs Footix (France)The first major shock: as the fleet-footed beagle from the soccer-phobic USA outplays his rooster rival. Zut!

Ato, Kaz and Nik (Korea/ Japan) vs Ciao (Italy)This game – and tournament itself – is brought into disrepute as shambolic scenes unfold. Not only are the Spheriks computer-generated and fielding three times too many players, they're also attempting to play a sport called “Atmoball”. Their opponent, Ciao, lumbers around idiotically for a while with a ball for a head, unable to see or kick. The fixture is eventually abandoned – and both teams disqualified – for being ridiculous.

Zakumi (South Africa) vs Naranjito (Spain)Gok Wan knows that orange and red don’t co-ordinate, and Naranjito doesn’t look the part here: there’s only going to be one winner between a hungry leopard and a gigantic tangerine. Zakumi advances in front of a delighted home crowd including Nelson Mandela.


World Cup Willie vs GoleoThe Three Lions prevail in the battle of the two Lions, with Germany’s awkward feline proving no match for the burly yellow Englishman. The crowd goes wild, and Lonnie Donegan’s ’66 anthem rings out around the terraces:

“There's a football fellah,You all know his name,And the papers tell us,He's in the Hall of Fame!”

Juanito v Striker vs ZakumiBeing an obese Mexican child, Juanito couldn't resist eating his jalepeno opponent after the previous round and was disqualified, leaving us with a face-off between an overenthusiastic puppy and a slightly camp teenage leopard in tight-fitting green disco shorts. It's a humdinger of a match, but the youngsters burn themselves out over 90 minutes, and Zakumi bags the winner during extra time, setting up a thrilling final with World Cup Willie.


Zakumi v World Cup WillieIt’s the ultimate battle of youth against experience, as the wily lion who started it all struggles out onto the pitch for one last job against the new cat on the block. Willie’s a big man, but he’s out of shape, and 44 years of fags, pints and relentless lioness-menacing since the glory days of ’66 have caught up with him. He fights desperately, but the younger, leaner Zakumi’s energy levels eventually prevail. It’s a South African victory on home soil, and Nelson Mandela parps out a mighty clarion call on a golden vuvuzela in front of a sell-out Soccer City – immediately achieving world peace. Happy days.

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