Ranking every World Cup mascot ever: La’eeb, Footix, World Cup Willie…

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HANGZHOU, CHINA - OCTOBER 27, 2022 - Citizens take photos of the 2022 World Cup mascot La'eeb at a 2022 World Cup themed store in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, Oct 27, 2022. Recently, the first 2022 World Cup themed store in Zhejiang province was unveiled in Hangzhou, attracting many citizens and fans to buy officially authorized souvenirs of the 2022 World Cup mascot and emblem.

Some football mascots can be iconic – think Arsenal’s Gunnersaurus or Manchester United’s Fred the Red – but some, well not so much.

The history of World Cup mascots stretches back to England in 1966, and each competition since has had a different representation in the shape of an animal, a human or otherwise.

We’ve taken a look at all 15 World Cup mascots, from 1966 right up to this year’s tournament in Qatar, and decided which are the cream of the crop, and which are far from it.

14. Goleo – Germany 2006

Everything about Goleo – and his sidekick Pille, a ball with a face – is extremely unnerving.

Yes, it is supposed to be a lion. And yes, we do think it definitely needs to put some pants on.

13. The Spheriks – South Korea/Japan 2002

Ato, Kaz and Nik as they were individually known, The Spheriks were supposedly computer-generated images that represented the future.

Sixteen years later, maybe we’re not quite far enough into the future just yet…

11. Tip & Tap – West Germany 1974

Two young boys Tip and Tap were supposed to represent a unified Germany – 16 years before the country’s actual Unification Day.

They also shared a t-shirt, which struck as very bizarre, with the WM standing for Weltmeisterschaft, the German for World Cup, of course.

10. Zabivaka – Russia 2018

It’s not a great sign when you look at the pictures and have absolutely no clue what it is.

The name, Zabivaka, translates to Goalscorer, and it is supposed to be a wolf. Send us a postcard with any idea what the goggles are for please.

10. La’eeb – Qatar 2022

Yes, it could be said that La’eeb looks like the ghost of all those dead workers that built the stadiums for Qatar 2022.

But that seems an awful lot to pin on a mascot, who looks cute enough from a purely design point of view.

9. Gauchito – Argentina 1978

Plain and simple, Gauchito was a young boy in an Argentina kit with a hat, neckerchief and whip typical of gauchos.

A national symbol in Argentina, a gaucho is a type of horseman in folklore, believed to be strong, brave and unruly. He’s also wearing some nice Puma Kings.

8. Juanito – Mexico 1970

Another not too over-the-top effort, young boy Juanito is said to embody the typical Mexican football fan.

His oversized hat and boots make him instantly recognisable and likeable, but it is basically just a boy.

7. Striker – USA 1994

Designed by the Warner Bros animation department, Striker is a common American dog dressed as a fan.

One of the first actual embodied mascots to grace the World Cup, and does actually look relatively like a dog, proving technology hasn’t come that far in 24 years.

6. Fuleco – Brazil 2014

It’s bizarre, but that might just be why we like it; Fuleco is an endangered three-banded armadillo found only in Brazil.

Made to represent Brazil’s biodiversity, the name is a mash up of ‘futebol’ and ‘ecologia’ of which you can guess the meanings.

And yes, it did have an official Twitter account.

5. Zakumi – South Africa 2010

Zakumi the leopard arrived in 2010 and was a decent effort to represent the first World Cup held in Africa.

The name is particularly well thought out, with ZA meaning South Africa and ‘kumi’ being the word for 10 in many African languages.

4. Naranjito – Spain 1982

Now we’re talking.

In 1982, Spain whacked an orange in their national kit, and named it ‘little orange’. Simple but effective.

4. World Cup Willie – England 1966

One of the first ever mascots of a major sporting event, World Cup Willie was devised by Enid Blyton’s illustrator Reg Hoye.

The Lion – as seen on England’s crest – wore a Union Flag with ‘World Cup’ across the front, and appeared in a series of comics around the tournament.

3. Ciao – Italy 1990

This caused much debate in the office. Young Joe, who wasn’t even born in 1990, declared this as ‘disappointingly uninventive’ and wanted it ranked at No.12

Our Editor, for whom Italia 90 was his first World Cup, considered instant dismissal but settled for a much loftier ranking for good ol’ Ciao.

It does raise an interesting question, though: is Ciao actually a brilliant mascot or do those of us of a certain age love it just because of nostalgia? it is, after all, just a stick figure with a football as a head.

2. Pique – Mexico 1986

This is just downright bizarre, but we are all over it.

After Juanito in 1970, Mexico upped their game when they got their second World Cup, dressing a pepper in a sombrero and a moustache.

It’s name comes from ‘picante’ which is Spanish for spicy, and is also supposed to be a pun on PK, standing for penalty kick.

Pique caused a lot of controversy in his homeland due to its stereotyping of Mexican culture.

1. Footix – France 1998

And now we come to the best of the bunch.

Footix is an iconic mascot for any football fan, representing the 1998 France World Cup which the home nation won.

He is a cockerel, which is a national symbol of France, while he is also donned in the team’s colours of mostly blue with a red trim.

To add to the beauty, Footix’s ‘daughter’ Ettie, a young chick, will be the mascot for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.

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