Images: Offside Sports Photgraphy / UEFA
You ever looked into the eyes of a mascot?
Unshakeable. Look right through you. They are the perfect distillation of a tournament, its aura locked into those giant, unblinking eyes, and mouths set in a constant state of cheer. What secrets can they tell? Who are they and where do they come from? Have they passed their forklift driver’s test?
Here we look back at nearly forty years of mascots from the Euros to see what we can learn.
Just Pinocchio? Couldn’t even be bothered making up a new character. Unbelievable. “Federico, they want to do the Euros here, and they want a mascot this year...” “I’m busy, just stick a football under Pinocchio’s arm, give him a frankly chilling middle-distance stare and be done with it.” “Si, no problem Federico. No problem. Shall we give him a hat that says ‘Europa 80’?” “Oh aye, yeah. That’s a top idea.” Early days, I guess.
Remember Footix from World Cup 1998? This is his cousin, Peno. He works in a forklift truck repair plant in Montpellier now and puts away Pernod like you wouldn’t believe. He used to play for Auxerre in the late ‘70s before moving into mascot work full time after a couple of operations on his cruciate. You can book him for your birthday now. 40 Euros. No questions asked.
Berni was 18 then, and he’s 49 now. He’s seen the light. The fitness light. Got an Instagram with hashtags like #progress and #fitnesslife and #gains. He goes to the gym, he goes swimming, and he unboxes trainers for himself. He’s got a Fitbit and has started drinking kombucha for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He has, twice, been gifted free holidays to Bali. Berni is the happiest person we know. #happy.
Meet Rabbit the Rabbit, who looks exactly like Berni the Rabbit from four years previous. Bring me the creative director who saw UEFA coming and made them pay up front: I want to tell them that they’re genuinely my hero.
Look at Goaliath. The most ‘90s lion we ever did see. A big burly fella, with a funny name, a football tucked under his arm, a glint in his eye, and a white shir… Oh my God, is Goaliath Gazza? When was the last time anyone checked in on Goaliath? Goaliath, if you are reading this: we are here for you, mate. We are here.
Woah. What’s happened here, then? Benelucky. Drinks round Camden. Will tell you about how he was in The Pogues for a bit, but they kicked him out because he kept losing his tin whistle. He’s mad, old Benelucky. A good lad, really. Under no circumstances are you to turn your back on him, like. But he’s got a good heart, and a tail.
How much can you make a mascot look like Cristiano Ronaldo without Cristiano Ronaldo suing his own football association? This much. Exactly this much.
TRIX AND FLIX—08
Trix and Flix own a ceramics company that specialises in carefully reproducing china Victorian cow creamers in a contemporary manner. Authenticity is their name, and convincing 75-year-old retirees to spend the money they’ve saved working hard all of their lives is their game. They’ve put ads in all the right papers, billboards in all the right places, words in all the right mouths. The Neighbourhood Watch is having a meeting next week.
SLAVEK AND SLAVKO—12
“Bit old to be going travelling aren’t you, Gary? Nearly 30,” you said, as you both sat in the Hungry Horse near the motorway. “Maybe we could just book something this summer. Get over to Berlin for a couple of weeks; it’ll be a laugh.” Well, Gary went on his own, and now he’s back. He met these lads at a music festival in an abandoned castle in Latvia, and now they all live on a barge and sell paraffin up and down the Regents Canal. He’ll teach you to juggle if you want. He juggles now.
“Je n'y crois pas!”