Which was the first FIFA World Cup mascot?

The FIFA World Cup was established in 1930, but it was not until the eighth iteration, hosted by England in 1966, that a mascot became a feature of the quadrennial football tournament. Seeking to maximise merchandising revenue from the tournament, the Football Association (FA) approached Walter Tuckwell & Associates, a Picadilly-based company specialising in character merchandise for design ideas.

Their chosen design, ‘World Cup Willie’ – a square-shouldered lion with a Beatlesque, mop top haircut and a Union Flag jersey bearing the legend ‘World Cup’ – was the brainchild of freelance illustrator Reg Hoye, who reportedly needed less than five minutes to produce his initial rough sketch. Nevertheless, his creation proved to be a roaring success (sorry), appearing on a variety of products, including t-shirts, in comic strips and elsewhere and providing the inspiration for the official World Cup song by Lonnie Donnegan. All together now, ‘Dressed in red, white and blue, he’s World Cup Willie…’.

After the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the idea of an official tournament mascot caught on. World Cup Willie was followed by Juanito, a boy wearing a Mexico home jersey and sombrero, in 1970, and Tip and Tap, two boys wearing West Germany jerseys bearing the letters ‘WM’, for ‘Weltmeisterschaft’ – the German word for World Cup – and number 74, four years later.

Rather more fanciful, and creative, mascot ideas down the years have included Naranjito – or, in English, ‘Little Orange’ – an anthropomorphic orange dressed in Spanish kit, in 1982. More recently, direct descendants of World Cup Willie have included a green-haired leopard called Zakumi in South Africa in 2010 and a Brazilian three-banded armadillo called Fuleco in Brazil in 2014.