World Cup Willy. The first ever FIFA endorsed marital aid... ha ha ha ha ha! But seriously, the first ever tournament mascot came into being, thus starting a tradition that has taken us from the very depths of corporate blandness to the edge of insanity.
I was initially going to concentrate on the World Cup and Euros, but after researching the Copa America, Africa CON and the Asia Cup, it's clear those tournaments are pure gold for strangeness!
Mascots are rarely well received, trying as they are to both appeal on a fun level while also trying to be culturally significant. The mostly negative reaction to Wenlock and Mandeville for the 2012 Olympics might explain why both England's mascots have taken the safer and rather predictable lion angle.
And so, I hereby present what I consider the five worst tournament mascots ever.
Guaso - Copa America 1991 (Chile)
The Official Line: ?
Seriously, that's all I could find by way of explanation. Apparently it's supposed to be some dude in a poncho and a hat. To me however it looks like the sort of thing you'd see sketched in a therapy session in a psychiatric ward full of serial killers... perversely, it would also be quite at home in a therapy session for the victim that got away.
"I tell ya, Doc. Every time I close my eyes I see him... clear as... ok not very clear... kind of blurry in fact. As if he'd been scribbled by a five-year-old child, but y'know... frightening and all that..."
Speaking of nightmares...
Pinoccio - Euro 1980 (Italy)
This one may seem all very nice. Pinoccio, the little wooden boy. Lovely stuff. But wait... is it really so innocent? Look at little Pinoccio there, all cute in his little paper hat. His paper hat. For the love of god, he's wearing a hat made of his own by-products! He's the Ed Gein of the mascot world.
Tell us Pinoccio, where's Gepetto? Asleep you say? Judging by his nose, that's clearly not true. And look at that smile and vacant stare. Now just picture that head turning ever so slowly towards you... that feeling? That's your blood running cold. Not long before it runs thick through his mahogany hands as that smile grows as fast his nose...
Agro-Hene - Africa Cup of Nations 2008 (Ghana)
There are a few explanations I can come up with for this one.
The CON organisers had just had Microsoft Word 1995 installed on their PCs and someone had found the clip art folder.
Someone posed the question "What would Nelson Mandela look like if he had an eagle's head, was playing football and had been drawn by a four-year-old?"
One point to note here... this was 2008. That's only four years ago. Was this really the best they could do? Mind you, if we're talking about not putting much effort in...
Rabbit - Euro 1992 (Sweden)
The Official Line: A football playing rabbit
Euro 88's mascot was called Berni and despite early suggestions he would be based on the then popular chain of steak restaurants, he was actually a footballing German grey rabbit... with a headband.
Four years later, Sweden, land of functional design, decided that the previous mascot was actually just fine and with typical minimalism, decided to change the bunny's shirt and... no, that was it.
The best part? His name was 'Rabbit'. Yes, from a land where even a shelf is called something elaborate like Ryksendokelporp, this thing got called Rabbit.
Just done some more research and it turns out, "Rabbit" is apparently Swedish for '3-door wardrobe with mirrored doors.'
Ato, Kaz & Nik - World Cup 2002 (Japan / South Korea)
There are those who say crowd sourcing is the future, that it yields truly democratic answers, that one day it will replace search engines. To those people, I say this. If the answer that crowd sourcing gives you is 'Ato, Kaz and Nik', then you have asked the wrong fucking question.