Mascots are an integral part of the FIFA World Cup. Some have been more successful than others over the years. The 1970s and 1980s saw many mascots in the form of fruit and chubby boys. In 1982, Spain had an orange as a mascot with human arms holding a soccer ball. Then, there was the Qatar 2022 mascot that resembled a ghost. Other mascots have been very popular and continue to live on in the hearts of soccer fans. Here are some of the most beloved mascots over the years.
World Cup Willie
The mascot for the 1966 World Cup in England was a lion. The appealing lion, a symbol of England, wore a Union Flag jersey. Willie was a great success in England and in other countries like Germany and Russia. Willie started to appear on everything from mugs to money boxes. A song was also written about him called “World Cup Willie”.
Today, mascots are still an important part of World Cup events but one thing that has changed is the availability of online betting. Betting on World Cup matches is very popular. U.S. residents can also bet on the matches now that online sports betting is legal in many states.
Ciao was the mascot for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The mascot’s design was simple but memorable. He may have been a stick figure with a soccer ball for a head but this was a welcome change. He didn’t have rosy cheeks or a silly hat. It was risky not to go with the cartoon-like mascots of previous years but it paid off. Soon Ciao was found on everything from mini soccer balls to a limited-edition Fiat Panda. Some of the motivation in sports like soccer can come from the mascots who whip up support for a team and get spectators excited.
Striker was the mascot for the 1994 World Cup held in the U.S. He was a Warner Brothers-designed canine. The energetic appearance of the dog wearing soccer gear resonated with dog lovers. It appealed particularly to a young audience.
Footix, Ettie, and Peno
A trio of mascots featured in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. Footix, the rooster, became the most popular of the trio. The rooster is one of the national symbols of France. Its body was blue and it had ‘France 1998’ in white on its chest. The ‘ix’ in Footix came from the popular Astérix comic strip.
In 2002, the World Cup was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. Pikachu, a popular Pokémon character, was one of the official mascots. Pikachu has grabbed international attention.
When the World Cup was held in South Africa in 2010, the mascot was probably one of the only memorable aspects. Zakumi was a colorful leopard with wide appeal.
There has been speculation about the mascot in the 2026 USA World Cup. It has recently been leaked that it could be Uncle Sam. He is universally recognized and could be a fitting symbol for the event.