The Tuesday 10: World Cup and European Championships mascots

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With the World Cup now mere weeks away, Dan Ross looks at some of the best (and worst, obviously) mascots to have graced major international championships down the years...

World Cup Willie - World Cup 66 (England)

Yes we moan about the consumerism-soaked, merchandise-laden circus that football has become, but do we ever take responsibility?

We should. ‘World Cup Willie’ was the start of the mascot trend - popping up on key fobs, on alarm clocks, as soft toys and in cereal boxes. He even inspired Lonnie Donegan to pen England’s first World Cup song, so, when you think about it, we have Willie to ‘thank’ for John Barnes’rap. Um, cheers, Willie…

Tip and Tap - World Cup 74 (West Germany)

Two ruddy, tousle-haired boys, clutch each other and show a bit of skin. What do you mean that could look strange out of context?

Germany’s contribution to the world of mascots in 1974 wasn’t supposed to have the controversial sub-text seen our cynical modern minds. Well, probably.

Zakumi - World Cup 2010 (South Africa)

With his stylish green hair, confident pose and an ominous bulge in his shorts, South Africa’s neo-punk leopard Zakumi seems to have been designed with the ladies in mind.

He has green shorts to match his locks and his yellow fur completes the ‘Bafana Bafana’ ensemble.

Whether he’ll be puffing his chest out with pride at his home nation’s performances this summer, only time will tell, but he can always spray his hair and shorts blue if Brazil samba into the final.

Kaz, Ato and Nik - World Cup 2002 (Japan and South Korea)

Have a team of mascots ever been more apt? Looking like Pokemon that have been sunbathing under the effervescent nightlights of Tokyo and Seoul, Kaz, Ato and Nik – or the three ‘Spheriks’ – were the CGI, McDonalds-friendly creations for the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.

The sight of young children in tears at their not-so-lovable appearances, however, suggests that the marketing men charged with the mascot-making task may have forgotten the point of it all…

Flix and Trix - Euro 2008 (Switzerland and Austria)

The androgynous twins that represented Austria and Switzerland in the 2008 European Championships attempted to continue the legacy of the CGI mascot created six years earlier.

They performed many similarly self-publicising tricks, appearing in their own animated show and even featuring in the video for this official tournament song by Shaggy (was he Austrian or Swiss? - ed).

The vid showed the pasty pair risking certain 3rd degree burns by promoting the competition in… Jamaica. Shaggy then follows them back to the hills and, wearing flat cap and boots, goes all ‘Sound of Music’. Don’t try to understand it.

Pinocchio - Euro 80 (Italy)

While Italia ‘90’s modernist tricolour stickman caught the imagination when it was animated during the TV broadcast graphics, it was the Italians’ Pinocchio effort for Euro ’80 that stays in the memory.

A cartoon copy of Gepetto’s little wooden boy, this character had a bizarre cone for a nose – a cone striped, of course, in red white and green. Though not confirmed, it is believed that the mascot’s nose grew each time it was mentioned how interesting a tournament it had been.

Footix - World Cup 98 (France)

The mascot that caught the imagination of the Playstation generation, ‘Footix’, the Gallic cockerel was the friendly face of the immensely popular Fifa World Cup ’98 video game.

Running down the rues and soaring past the landmarks of host nation, France, ‘Footix’ watched on as spotty teens shied away from sunlight and attempted to do what Glenn Hoddle’s men could not.

In real life, he was also the mascot for one of the best World Cups of all time, and, along with Zinedine Zidane, is credited for bringing les Bleus their first golden, globe-like trophy. Ok, I made that last bit up.

Naranjito - World Cup 82 (Spain)

Everything about the 1982 World Cup was a disaster for the host nation.

They scraped through the first round despite drawing with Honduras and defeat to Northern Ireland, and failed to win in their round two group. To make matters worse, they were cheered on the entire time by a giant orange. That’s right; no lions or young, aspiring footballers, but a big fat fruit that looked more than a little embarrassed at the performances of his national side.

Indeed ‘Naranjito’, as he was known, wore the full kit, and could probably have done a better job than any of the Spanish forwards. He got his own show out of it, though…

Pique - World Cup 86 (Mexico)

I suppose Mexico’s excuse for this poorly-drawn, hilariously self-deprecating stereotype was that they never expected to be hosting the 1986 World Cup.

Financial difficulties forced first-choice Colombia’s resignation and Mexico jumped at the chance to host the lucrative tournament for the second time in 16 years.

Moustachioed, sombrero-wearing chilli pepper Pique was obviously delighted to get his chance, too, after cruelly missing out to Juanito at Mexico ’70.

Benelucky - Euro 2000 (Holland and Belgium)

One of the most confusing mascots ever to grace the Euros, Benelucky was actually massively popular with the kids.

Created to stress on the unity and friendship of the two host countries, Netherlands and Belgium, was a multi-coloured animal sensibly representing the flags of the joint hosts of Euro 2000.

What was less sensible, however, was that the animal was a lion - hardly commonplace in the jungles of the low countries – and, to make the whole thing even stranger, a devil's tail and horns were added. Still, it looked cool. - more to read...
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