Friday, 22 March 2013

After They Were Famous: The Secret Lives of the World Cup Mascots

World Cups come and go, some leaving behind a raft of fond memories and a lasting legacy for the host nation...others merely leave behind white elephant stadia and an increased national debt!

But what becomes of the World Cup Mascots? Their moment in the spotlight burns brightly, but is over quicker than a Girls Aloud reunion tour.

Chris & Rich asked this question and after some exhaustive research, invite you to take a look at the fates of some of those forgotten icons...and find that life after a World Cup rarely fits in with FIFA's family vision...

World Cup Willie (1966, England)

William Lion, as he was known before joining Equity, took on his first major acting role as the logo that appeared on UK-farmed eggs in the 1950’s. Annoyed by the continual battering of thousands of spoons across the country, Willie searched the small ads for a new job and eventually replied to an advert placed by the FA for a new football tournament mascot. With his only opposition being a humanised sparrow holding a football and a bulldog with a limp, Willie easily won the public vote.

After the triumph of a home victory for England at the 1966 World Cup, the excitement and interest in football slowly started to diminish, as did their hunger for World Cup Willie. The lion that had carried the hopes and earned the affection of the English fans was now yesterday’s man and there no longer seemed to be a part for him to play.

Willie 'scores'
Willie found the lack of adulation and attention difficult to cope with once the 1966 World Cup finished and he developed a strong dependency on anti-depressants. Having recovered with the help of other leonine friends, he became the figurehead and later the bouncer of an East London nightclub run by Derek and Dennis Crim, the notorious underworld heavies. Things went well until an unfortunate ‘misunderstanding’ led to Willie losing one of his paws and he vanished from the public gaze for over three decades.

Despite receiving many offers including an understudy role for the titles of MGM and an international ambassador for Peugeot, he finally re-emerged in Costa Rica in the 1990’s where he started the now famous 'Sweet Willie' sugar cane plantation. Now aged 71, Willie makes few public appearances and prefers not to talk about his time in the World Cup spotlight.

Tip and Tap (1974, West Germany)

Born Hans and Harald Topp, the cheeky pairing were twins despite Harald being a year older than Hans.Their early lives were not always happy and they both struggled at school, failing to earn any academic qualifications of note. Despite this, they applied for stage school and appeared together in a number of minor roles in children’s TV including ‘Grange Hügel’ and ‘Die Rote Hand Gang’.

By the start of 1974, there were few people in West Germany that weren’t getting caught up in the excitement ahead of that summer’s World Cup. The DFB were looking for a pair of young boys in their late-teens to act as mascots and Hans and Harald were deemed ideal for the role, but who ever heard of mascots called ‘Hans and Harald’? The solution was to brand them with new names that would come across as wacky and ‘of their time’, even if they would be dated before the tournament was over. Overnight they became ‘Tip and Tap.’

Throughout the competition they received huge acclaim across West Germany for their role in promoting WM’74. Afterwards, they were quickly snapped up by a TV company in their home country and presented many top mainstream shows including ‘Die Tip and Tap Show’, a comedy programme featuring skits and sketches performed in a style that would become popular to fans of Ant and Dec.

Sadly their light was not to burn brightly for much longer. Their corny delivery and old-fashioned schtick fell out of favour with audiences during the 1980’s, and off-the-screen tensions caused them to part with their agent of 14 years, Freddie Fuchs, in 1986.

Though they returned to prominence after appearing in a 1990 TV commercial for Kaffee Hit! (both improbably dressed as giant coffee cups), they ultimately failed to return to the heady days of 1974 when they were seen by a worldwide audience of 250 million. They now sell cheap kitchen utensils on the German TV station QWC.


Naranjito (1982, Spain)









Oh dear...







Pique (1986, Mexico)

Life looked good for Pique in 1986. Mexico 86 had been a huge success and he had undoubtedly been the star of the show. He knew this as he’d been told so by the head of Televisa, with whom he’d signed a huge contract to present a new sports / light entertainment show on Saturday nights called “Pique’s Pick Em Up!”

The day after Maradona lifted the trophy, he gave Televisa a call to see when they’d need him in. There came no response, so the cheery chilli made his way downtown to their offices. As he arrived, all the blinds quickly closed and the lights went off. Confused, he knocked repeatedly at the door, but no answer arrived. He went home, only slightly less cheery to find a message on his answer machine. A hurried, distracted voice informed him that his contract wasn’t to be... something about large sombreros and widescreen TV not being invented for another 20 years or so.

Pique had been sold a lie and finally his cheery facade crumbled. With a grief-soaked “Aye Caramba”, he reached for the Tequila and drank hard and fast. As the worm slipped down his impossibly thin neck, he started choking. He began to turn blue... I think... Hard to tell with dark green skin... He just about managed to grab the phone and dial 065.

He was rushed to Casualty - a considerable challenge as his sombrero kept jamming against the door frame - but soon he was being revived.

Hours later he arrived home and, sinking into his couch with a pitiful ‘aye aye aye’, he sat and took stock of everything; the failed deal, the buzz he’d got from performing, the roar of the crowd... His mind began to tick over...

During his visit to hospital, his shirt had been cut open and the cold Mexican night was drawing in, so he made his way to the washer drier to get his nice clean white one. As if the day couldn’t get any worse, he discovered a lone red sock at the bottom of the drum...and yes, his white shirt was now pink.

Cojones!

He sighed, put it on and looked dejectedly in the mirror. It was then his epiphany struck...

And so it turned out that for the last 27 years, Pique has been the star of the Mexican Mardi Gras, performing to adoring crowds and, most importantly, his adoring boyfriend, Pedro.

Larga vida y libre, Piqué!

Ciao (1990, Italy)


Ever since his conception, little Ciao had been troubled by his name. Whenever he met new people they’d often walk away muttering how there was “something wrong with that one” and questioning why he just keep saying hello.

Still, the 1980s had been a good time for him, what with that decade’s love of bright colours and boxy shapes. He was admired as a pinnacle of style and was feted by the fashion houses of Milan. His rise in society culminated in being chosen as the mascot for Italia 90. He had made it and what’s more, his name was finally something to be proud of. The posters bearing his name finally validated the duality of his moniker as he bid ‘hello’ to the competing nations.

Alas, far from being a celebration of football, Italia 90 was known for its unending cynicism that forced FIFA to change one of its oldest rules. Alongside this, there was the economic downturn and as the 90s took hold, the garish excess of the 80s gave way to a more organic feel as green issues came to the fore.

Suddenly, people didn’t like harsh geometry. Curves were in and boxiness was most definitely out. From style icon to fashion pariah in just a few short years, Ciao struggled in the new decade. What promised to be a lucrative contract representing a new Lego soccer game fell apart as Ciao was snapped by the paparazzi sharing a drink with some suits from Mega Bloks. It was Ciao’s low point.

The agency said it was support work...
Soon afterwards, he lost his house in an ill advised ponzi scheme and spent the remainder of the decade under a bridge... working as a support column. One night as he bedded down under yesterday’s paper, his eyes came to rest on an article in the technology section. It detailed a new game craze sweeping the internet called Minecraft.

Blocks were back!

He quit his job immediately, unknowingly causing the death of three motorists that happened to be crossing the bridge at that moment, and headed to Mojang’s headquarters where he was greeted like a long lost hero.

“CIAO” they all screamed as the king of square strolled into the foyer...and for once, it was his name they were calling!


So there you go...as Ronan Keating accurately pointed out, life is indeed a roller-coaster. 

We'll catch up with some more World Cup Mascots in future...if you can stand the misery...

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