German World Cup lion comes in for a mauling

15th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

16 November 2004 , HAMBURG - "Why is our World Cup lion not wearing any shorts?" one newspaper asked in a front-page banner headline. This, and a number of other questions, seemed to sum up the sense of bafflement among German football fans and commentators after the unveiling of Goleo VI as official World Cup 2006 mascot. The shaggy-haired lion looks like a llama, wears a pair of football boots and a retro German football shirt - but no shorts - and carries a talking football which goes by the name Pille.

16 November 2004

HAMBURG - "Why is our World Cup lion not wearing any shorts?" one newspaper asked in a front-page banner headline.

This, and a number of other questions, seemed to sum up the sense of bafflement among German football fans and commentators after the unveiling of Goleo VI as official World Cup 2006 mascot.

The shaggy-haired lion looks like a llama, wears a pair of football boots and a retro German football shirt - but no shorts - and carries a talking football which goes by the name Pille.

The oversized creature - 2.30 metres tall - has been designed in partnership with the Jim Henson Company, the team behind the Muppets, and unsurprisingly looks as if it could be auditioning for Sesame Street.

Franz Beckenbauer, chairman of the World Cup organizing committee, is convinced Goleo VI will be a fantastic ambassador for the World Cup, but others are not so sure.

This American-invented cuddly lion, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung surmised, is yet another "expression of transatlantic misunderstanding".

Goleo seems to represent Germany's image in the United States of "an old hippy who runs around without any trousers on ..." and "a toothless old codger talking to a muttering football".

Berliner Zeitung was left confused by the name Goleo VI which several newspaper described as a mixture of the Spanish "gol" for "goal", the Spanish shout of approval "ole" and "leo" for "lion".

If only things could be that easy, it sighed. But no, the World Cup organizers insist Goleo was "named by his father (what father?) because he always shouted 'go Leo go' when he played football".

And if that is not daft enough, the newspaper suggested, the Roman numeral VI does not denote the 6 in 2006 but has been tagged on because the lion was the sixth candidate for the job.

Goleo follows a series of forgettable World Cup mascots including the aliens Nik, Ato and Kaz who made virtually no terrestrial impression at the World Cup in South Korea and Japan two years ago.

But Goleo VI, according to the Tageszeitung, "surpasses all previously known tastelessness". The mascot, it said, is "a big, sluggish know-it-all: a German in lion's skin."

Die Welt said Goleo was a rather frumpy and boring creature which compared unfavourably with Tip and Tap - the cheeky street footballers who were the mascots at the 1974 World Cup in Germany.

"Goleo seems to be an expression of social uncertainty and fearful caution: a well-behaved consensus animal who would not hurt a fly, with furry claws and no teeth," it said.

"The lowest common denominator leads inevitably to mediocrity. Here at least Goleo is very close to German football."

Not all share the criticism, however. The mass-circulation Bild newspaper has given Goleo VI the thumbs up. And the Magdeburger Volksstimme said it would be wrong to look at the mascot "in national terms".

In the age of globalization "one cannot take heed of the possible feelings of a couple of million Germans", it wrote.

Whatever their views, Germans may do well to take note that the last lion to appear as a World Cup mascot - World Cup Willie in England in 1966 - was a resounding success. Not only that, the host nation went on to win the tournament.

DPA

Subject: German news 

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