The World Cup’s first-ever official mascot, Willie certainly provided hosts England with the necessary good luck to go and win the whole thing. The mascot was designed by artist Reg Hoye, and based on his son, Leo. Though it was unique at the time, the lion now looks pretty tame in comparison to other World Cup mascots through the years. However, Willie set the benchmark, and rightfully goes down in history.
The mascot was a boy called Juanito. He wore the full Mexican national team strip and the words ‘Mexico 70’ emblazoned on the front of his sombrero. The boy’s name Juanito means “God is gracious” and is also a variant of the common Spanish name Juan.
Tip and Tap (1974)
West Germany stepped up to the plate four years later, capitalizing on the positive reception to Juanito by continuing the human mascot theme. Duo Tip and Tap wore white shirts emblazoned with the word "Weltmeisterschaft" -- German for "World Cup," and the number 74, to signify the World Cup year. The rosy-cheeked pair again provided the hosts with that winning feeling, as West Germany were crowned world champions for the second time.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesChristof Koepsel
Boys seemed to be a common theme in the early years of World Cup mascots and Argentina 1976 was no different. Gauchito was a boy wearing the pale blue and white of Argentina’s national jersey. He wore a hat, neckerchief and whip, which were typical gaucho attire. A gaucho is the equivalent of a North American “cowboy.” In the 19th century, gauchos made up most of the rural population in parts of South America.
A welcome return to the more bright, colourful and downright strange World Cup mascot, Naranjito the orange was Spain’s offering in 1982. Considered one of the most recognisable and popular World Cup mascots, Naranjito even starred as the main protagonist in his own 20-minute television programme in Spain. Not bad for a simple orange holding a football, hey?
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We’re back in Mexico with another quirky mascot. In 1986 Mexico rolled out a mascot symbolizing a jalapeño chilli pepper, a key ingredient in a lot of Mexican cuisine. The chilli pepper was equipped with a moustache and, you guessed it, a sombrero. The name of the mascot comes from the word picante, which is the Spanish for spicy sauces and peppers.
Formed from the five letters comprising the host country’s name (Italy), Ciao was the first ‘non-live’ mascot. Ciao is a stick figure with a football for a head, and, as well as taking the letters from Italy’s name, it also takes the iconic Italian tricolor for its body. In truth, it’s a pretty strange and simplistic design, but it captures the World Cup mascot theme perfectly.
Getty ImagesDavid Cannon
Striker, the World Cup Pup (1994)
Striker, the World Cup Pup was chosen by the American public as the mascot for the 1994 tournament in the states. As the most common US pet animal, the American public clearly adore dogs. Striker wore the red, white and blue soccer jersey of the national team with the words “USA 94”.
Getty ImagesSimon Barnett
The mascot for France ’98 almost perfectly encapsulated the host country. It took the form of a rooster, one of the national symbols of the country and the animal which is also proudly sported on the country’s badge. Footix was also blue, and was named after the word "football," with the ‘IX’ derived from a popular French comic. Once again, a World Cup mascot inspired the hosts to victory, with a French fairytale unravelling at the hands of the great Zinedine Zidane.
AFP/Getty ImagesGEORGES GOBET
Karla Kick (2011)
"Born" in Germany in 1995 (the same year Germany played in its first Women's World Cup final), Karla Kick was present at all nine venues during the 2011 tournament. Per FIFA, Karla "embodies German virtues such as thoroughness and discipline, but she is also adventurous, spontaneous, bubbly, fond of children and very playful."
Bongarts/Getty ImagesChristof Koepsel
Ato, Kaz, Nik --The Spheriks (2002)
The Spheriks were chosen by the South Korean and Japanese public from shortlists on the internet and, in McDonalds’ restaurants. Ato, Kaz and Nik are orange, purple and blue respectively. They are computer generated characters/creatures that make up a team of fictional “Atmoball” players; Ato is the coach, while Kaz and Nik are squad members.
AFP/Getty ImagesHWANG KWANG-MO
Goleo VI (2006)
Taking inspiration from the original World Cup mascot, 1966’s World Cup Willie, Goleo the lion also proved a roaring success. Not without controversy, however, as though 7.5 foot tall Goleo wore a Germany shirt, he opted to go without pants or shorts. The decision to use a lion -- the emblem of historic rivals England and the Netherlands, was also questioned. However, accompanied by his sidekick, Pille the football, Goleo won over the fans eventually.
AFP/Getty ImagesSEBASTIAN WILLNOW
South Africa chose a leopard -- commonly found in parts of the country -- as their mascot for their first attempt at hosting a World Cup tournament. Zakumi’s green hair and yellow body represented the national colors of the soccer team. His name comes from “ZA” a code for South Africa and, “Kumi” a word that means 10 in some African languages.
AFP/Getty ImagesALEXANDER JOE
A three-banded armadillo, Fuleco represented not only a species native to Brazil, but an endangered one at that. A portmanteau of the words ‘futebol’ and ‘ecologia,’ Fuleco continued Brazil’s theme of environmental awareness during the summer of 2014. His blue shell also represents Brazil’s clear skies and water.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Canada selected Shuéme, a great white owl, the mascot for the 2015 Women's World Cup. Shuéme's name is a nod to Canada's status as a bilingual nation, derived from the French word for owl (chouette). Per FIFA, "Shuéme’s flowing contours suggest grace under pressure, while her wings and tail ensure precise control and agility."