With the preparations for the Soccer World Cup 2014 in Brazil getting underway, the process of choosing the mascot for the competition is also just starting. There have been many takes on the idea of a mascot in World Cup history, but traditionally, a country’s flag has usually formed part of the design, whether it’s just using the colours (like with South Africa 2010’s Zakumi leopard mascot) or actually using the flag as an intrinsic part of the design – such as the ‘Ciao’ stick figure from Italy ’94.
In fact, the first ever World Cup mascot was “World Cup Willie” from the 1966 World Cup in England. Although it now looks rather dated, the whole mascot idea was commended at the time and very popular. “Willie” was a lion kicking a football and wearing a football jersey featuring the Union Jack. This did cause some controversy at the time, since the Union Jack is, strictly speaking, the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, whereas the World Cup was an England-only affair. Nationalist sentiment in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was perhaps less strong than it is now but the appropriation of a UK symbol for an event that only took place in England still caused some protest.
Brazil certainly won’t have that problem, and the national flag is the subject of deep affection within Brazil. In fact, one of the major holidays in Brazil is the national Flag Day on November 19th, where Brazilians gather all over the country to pay homage to the flag, sing the flag anthem, and dispose with due ceremony of flags that are no longer in fit condition to be used.
The various ideas mooted so far for the Brazil World Cup 2014 mascot are a macaw, a jaguar, or a saci, which is a popular character in Brazilian folklore. It would seem to be easy enough to incorporate the flag (or at least its colours) into the macaw or the jaguar, but the saci might be a little trickier. Originally a representation of an indigenous deity, the saci is popular today especially among black Brazilians. The one-legged youngster smokes a pipe and wears a magical red cap which allows him to disappear and reappear whenever and wherever he likes. It would certainly be more imaginative than most mascots, but it’s certainly not clear where the Brazil Flag would fit in!
The 2014 World Cup promises to be one long holiday in Brazil, and the mascot usually forms such a central part of the festivities that we’re sure there will be plenty of great designs entering the contest. Let’s just hope that Brazil’s unique flag also gets in on the act!
Dan Clarke works for Real Brazil Holidays, a specialist provider of holidays in Brazil, and he’s hugely looking forward to visiting Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.