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The official mascots

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Twenty-eight days, 32 teams, 64 matches, and one winner. Come December 18, and there will be a new World Cup champion if France fail to defend their title. It is the first time the tournament will be held in winter, causing all the major leagues worldwide to go on a break. The Qatar World Cup has already unveiled its mascot ‘Laʼeeb’. Every World Cup since 1966 has had a mascot which is a character that represents the culture of the country. The mascot could be inspired by their flora, fauna, fable, history, geography etc. 

Since their introduction, the mascots have been an integral part of the World Cup. Some of them are still fondly remembered by fans even years or decades after the World Cups. While some World Cups had only one mascot, sometimes multiple mascots have been introduced (the 2002 World Cup, for example).

So, here we look at the history of FIFA World Cup mascots.

1966 World Cup Mascot- World Cup Willie

The first World Cup to have a mascot was in 1966, which was held in England. It was named Willie after its designer Reg Hoye Willie; The mascot was a lion, a prestigious symbol in the United Kingdom, wearing a Union Jack with the words’ World Cup’ inscribed on them. Initially, there was little interest in the character. However, England’s victory made it famous, so fans still remember it today. 

1970 World Cup Mascot- Juanito

The next World Cup was held in Mexico, the first to be held in North America. The mascot for the World Cup was ‘Juanito’. It was a boy who wore a green Mexico football jersey and a yellow sombrero, a traditional Mexico men’s hat with the words ‘Mexico 70’ written on them. The character represented Mexico’s culture and their relation with football.

1974 World Cup Mascot- Tip and Tap 

The 1974 World Cup was held in Germany and saw the introduction of the legendary ‘Total Football‘ philosophy by the Netherlands. The mascot for the World Cup was Tip and Tap. They were two boys wearing Germany’s jerseys with black and blonde hair, respectively. On one of the jerseys, the word ‘WM’ was written and on the other was ’74’. WM was the abbreviation of ‘Weltmeisterschaft’ which means World Cup in German. 

1978 World Cup Mascot- Gauchito

The 1978 World Cup was the first to be held in Argentina. They would win their first title, led by the impressive Mario Kempes. Gauchito was the official mascot for the tournament. It is a boy wearing an Argentinian jersey, a hat and Neckerchief, and a scarf playing with a football with a whip in his right hand. The attire was similar to skilled horsemen in Argentina.

1982 World Cup Mascot- Naranjito

The World Cup went to Spain in the 1982 World Cup, and the mascot for the tournament was ‘Naranjito’. The mascot was an anthropomorphised orange, a famous fruit in Spain, wearing the Spanish national team jersey with a football in his left hand. The word ‘Naranjito’ is Spanish for the word orange.

1986 World Cup Mascot- Pique 

Mexico has the record of having the shortest gap between hosting the two World Cups, as they got their second World Cup 16 years after their first one. Mexico already had Juanito, so they tried to be creative by making jalapeno, their traditional vegetable, as the mascot. Pique sported a black moustache wearing the Mexico national jersey and a sombrero. The name comes from Picante, which means spice peppers and sauces in Mexico. 

1990 World Cup Mascot- Ciao 

The World Cup returned to Italy after 56 years in 1990. And the Italians came with a unique mascot, CIao. It was a stick figure with a football for its head and was covered with the colours of the Italian flag. The name was inspired by one of the most common greetings in the country. 

1994 World Cup- United States- Striker 

Just eight years after 1986, the World Cup returned to North America, but instead of Mexico, the United States won the right to host the tournament, the first in their history. And the mascot for the tournament was Striker, the World Cup Pup. The mascot was a dog wearing the United States national jersey with the words ‘USA 1994’ written on it and a football under his left foot. 

1998 World Cup Mascot-Footix

France would host the final World Cup of the 20th century, where they would also win their first title. The mascot for the World Cup was Footix, a cockerel (a young male chicken), one of the national symbols of France. Footix wore a national jersey with the words ‘FRANCE 98’ written on them and a football in his left hand. 

2002 World Cup Mascot-Ato, Kaz, and Nik

The 2002 World Cup was the first in history to be co-hosted with South Korea and Japan. And it was also the tournament where there were three mascots named Ato, Kaz, and Nik. Coloured Orange, Blue and Purple, all three were computer-generated images. Ato was the coach, while Kaz and Nik were football players. Together they played ‘Atmosball’, a fictional sport similar to football.

2006 World Cup Mascot- Goleo and Pille

For the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a lion was selected as the official mascot. Named Goleo, he wore the German national jersey worn by the national team between the 1950s and 1970s. His sidekick was Pille, who was a talking football. The name Galeo is an amalgamation of Goal and Leo. However, it was criticised by many people in Germany over the choice of animal, with the eagle being the preferred choice which is also on the German coat of arms. 

2010 World Cup Mascot- Zakumi

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was the first to be hosted in Africa as South Africa won the right to host the tournament. For the occasion, the South Africans selected a leopard as their mascot. Named Zakumi, the mascot wore a South African jersey with ‘SOUTH AFRICA 2010’ written on it. Zakumi had green hair and a football in his left hand. 

2014 World Cup Mascot- Fuleco

The 2014 World Cup was Brazil’s second as a host after the 1950 World Cup, and to mark the occasion, a three-banded armadillo, an endangered species, was named as the official mascot. Found only in Brazil, the mascot wore a white t-shirt with ‘BRASIL 2014’ written on it. He also had the official match ball ‘Adidas Brazuca’ in his right hand. 

2018 World Cup Mascot-Zabivaka

Russia hosted its first-ever World Cup in 2018 and selected a wolf as their official mascot. They named it ‘Zabivaka‘, an amalgamation of two Russian words which means ‘wolf’ and ‘to strike’ respectively. Zabivaka wore red shorts and a white and blue t-shirt with ‘RUSSIA 2018’ written on it. It was made by a design student Ekaterina Bocharova and was selected by internal voting in Russia. 

2022 World Cup Mascot-La’eeb

For the current edition in Qatar, the mascot is named La’eeb. It is a floating Keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn in the country. It has eyes, eyebrows and a mouth. It has ‘QATAR 2022’ written at the bottom of it. The word ‘La’eeb’ in Arabic means a ‘super-skilled player’. 

FIFA World Cup official mascots and match balls 

World Cup  Host Mascot name Matchball name 
1966 England  World Cup Willie Challenge 4-Star
1970 Mexico  Juanito Telstar 
1974 West Germany  Tip and Tap Telstar Durlast
1978 Argentina  Gauchito  Tango
1982 Spain Naranjito  Tango Espana
1986 Mexico Pique Azteca
1990 Italy  Ciao  Etrusco Unico
1994 United States Striker, the World Cup Pup Questra
1998 France Footix Tricolore
2002 South Korea/Japan Ato, Kaz, and Nik Fevernova
2006 Germany Goleo VI and Pille Teamgeist
2010 South Africa Zakumi Jabulani
2014 Brazil Fuleco Brazuca
2018 Russia Zabivaka Telstar-18
2022 Qatar  La’eeb Al Rihla


The 2022 FIFA World Cup will begin on November 20 and after 64 matches will finish on December 18.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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