The mascots in the FIFA tournaments first came into the picture in 1966. That means England became the first country to have one. The country hosted the eighth edition of the competition. Since then, giving an avatar to each of the host nations has been a tradition.
The artistic body semblances for the tournament are designed keeping in mind that it includes and highlights as many aspects of the host nation as possible. More often than not, the mascots are anthropomorphic to radiate animated cheerfulness and generate sales of merchandise which in turn helps promote the ongoing event.
But how would they perform or what their competitive allure would be when one is to put them all in the same league? Who has the most appeal of all and on whom the FIFA went wrong with its sense of creativity?
For this list, we are specifically considering the mascots that came into existence after the 1998 World Cup. As such to give it a fair battle, we are differentiating mascots from the 2000s onwards as before that, the graphic technology or the glamor of creating figures for the tournament just wasn’t as serious, frankly and arguably.
They are judged more on basis of the 2d parameters, especially for digital applications. We are also looking at a lot more than just aesthetics and digital craftsmanship.
Worth noting is the mascots after the 2000s also started to have more facial characteristics or rather emotions which also stood them as an entity of their own. There were additionally those works that gave more specifics on their bodies. FIFA in addition, for the most part, ditched the stereotype hotline with the turn of the century.
#6 Japan – Ato, Kaz, and Niks
The first world cup of the 21st century is perhaps where the graphics team of the competition started taking the mascots seriously albeit going by the polls still came short in the overall appeal.
Japan and South Korea broke the custom when the Asian nations went with more than two figures as the world cup’s mascots. Though, going with the two countries as the host nations, in itself, was FIFA breaking its tradition by choosing two host nations rather than going with just one country.
On one hand, the 2002 mascots named Ato, Kaz, and Niks were kind of fitting to signify the arrival of a new age as well as the rise of digital technology as the three effigies were entirely computer generated. However considering Japan and Korea’s love for calligraphy, fine arts, and manga (especially the former), many criticized the figures for lacking details and being too effortless.
The trio is actually Spheriks who play a virtual game called Atmoball. Ato, the tall one is the mentor while the other two are players.
For the names, FIFA decided to take polls from the internet, one of the several times the federation has chosen to do so. Surveys were also carried out among the host nations’ McDonald’s customers.
#5 Brazil -Fuleco
In 2014, Brazil didn’t do much different than its predecessor host nations in symbolizing the world cup with animals.
The 2014 host chose the three-banded armadillo, the nation’s endemic species and an endangered one as well, for its official mascot. Much like South Africa 2010 (more down below), Brazil also gave a boyish and cartoon theme to the figure who they named Fuleco. The word comes from the amalgamation of the words futebol and ecologia.
It apparently was a representation of the country’s love for football as well as the ecology. For the colors, Brazil of course went with the combination it has in its national flag.
Fuleco, however, created a few controversies of its own. Although chosen with the motive to raise awareness about the endangered species, the mascot did little to no help when regional charities actually stepped up to protect the habitat of the armadillo.
#4 Germany – Goleo VI
In 2006 Germany became just another country to use an animal to mark the country’s hosting of the 18th edition of the FIFA World Cup. Deutschland itself was hosting the tournament for the second time having previously entertained it in 1974 though as West Germany.
This time, the German aesthetic groups went with a lion figure named Goleo VI (from Goal and Leo). Accompanying him was a sidekick in the form of a talking football named Pille.
Goleo VI is the first and so far the last FIFA mascot to have beast attributes as well. It wore the German national kit and cleats but no shorts. In terms of big-yet-gullible, FIFA is yet to master Goleo.
#3 Qatar – La’eeb
The mascot for Qatar couldn’t have been more obvious. The 2022 host nation took inspiration/chose the keffiyeh, a traditional headdress as the ultimate symbol to represent their nation’s historic event.
Qatar named the faced headdress La’eeb meaning super skilled player in Arabic. Famous as ghutra in Arab countries, it is often the Qatari dignitaries’ basal clothe.
La’eeb, however, broke the trend of the mascots being anthropomorphic as it simply is part of a wardrobe that has a face on it. It carries the slogan Now Is All.
It’s the Disney/Pixar Esque comical eyes that take it just next to the league of cuteness.
#2 Russia – Zabviaka
The arts got more serious when FIFA came to Russian soil or at least the detailing.
It also happened to be the second time FIFA let the internet decide what should the official mascot (after Japan) in addition to the first time the federation published two other alternates or nominees.
While the tournament cartoon figure, a wolf named Zabviaka felt more like a winter Olympic symbolism, it certainly held the adorability for a mascot intended to be endearing.
Zabviaka in Russian means the one who scores.
#1 South Africa -Zakumi
A wildlife beastie figure in the form of a mascot during the South Africa campaign was the fourth time the competition went with an anthropomorphic personification.
The 2010 host South Africa took inspiration from leopards, common sightings in South Africa, for its official mascot. It was named Zakumi the combination of ZA (South Africa) and Kumi (10 in various African languages). The animated leopard also had green and gold colors painted on its body which was an ode to the sports kit of the host nation.
Many also struggled to find any offensive national stereotype in it as the figure looked like it came straight out of some flagship animated TV show or at least the popular one. And he himself was the protagonist who even from the surface had a bit of a fun-loving ambiance.
Also, no one can deny it still has the best hair of all the World Cup mascots.