Ever since World Cup Willie strutted his stuff in 1966, mascots from big-nosed toys to lion/devil hybrids have brought their own joie de vivre to major football tournaments across the globe.
The UEFA European Championship waited until 1980 before unveiling its own lucky charm, though it has been a curious journey ever since, culminating in the UEFA EURO 2020 figurehead unveiled on Sunday. UEFA.com guides you through the weird and wonderful past.
EURO ’80, Italy: Pinocchio
We, like any child worth their salt, are acutely aware of the perils of telling fibs: lie and your nose grows like a carrot; tell the truth and you shed your life as a wooden toy in favour of a normal childhood. Considered one of the world’s most popular books at the time of the tournament, Pinocchio was the ideal character for the first EURO mascot.
EURO ’84, France: Peno
A mascot ready for action, this cockerel was smartly clothed in the kit of host nation France – boots, ball and all. Named Peno after the French slang for penalty, he certainly brought luck to Les Bleus, who went on to win the competition on home soil.
EURO ’88, West Germany: Berni
If few were expecting a rabbit, fewer still could have foreseen a rabbit labelled Berni. There was method in the madness. “A likeable and enthusiastic football fan” according to the German Football Association (DFB), he was aptly called after the city of Berne: then location of UEFA headquarters and where Germany lifted the 1954 FIFA World Cup. Primed with two sweat bands on his wrists, as well as one on his head, Berni looked to be having a ball. Sadly for us, a 2006 campaign to revive Berni for the World Cup fell on deaf ears.
The pressure was now on Sweden – the fourth country to unveil a talisman for European football’s most prestigious championship – to provide something imaginative, something joyful, something original. They had the chance to pull a rabbit out of the hat and did just that. A rabbit called Rabbit.
EURO ’96, England: Goaliath
Goaliath brought an end to the run of rabbits. Thirty years since World Cup Willie started it all in his dashing Union Jack waistcoat, this new lion had a tough act to follow. But with three lions on their shirt, England could hardly have chosen differently and, sporting an elegant white and navy number, Goaliath was the gentle giant for which we all yearned.
UEFA EURO 2000, Netherlands-Belgium: Benelucky
With 5,000 contenders to pick from, the competition’s first co-hosts had no excuse and duly delivered. Named partly in honour of the Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg union, Benelucky was also a combination of the Latin ‘bene’ and the English ‘luck’, thus offering positive vibes to all competing nations. The cahoots did not stop there, though. Part devil after the Belgium team’s ‘Red Devils’ moniker, and part lion in reference to the Dutch side’s national symbol, Benelucky was a triumph whichever way you looked at it.
UEFA EURO 2004, Portugal: Kinas
How close Portugal came to becoming the first hosts since France to reap the maximum rewards of a mascot’s strict purpose: to bring good luck. Defeat by Greece in the final left them just short despite the best efforts of what, ostensibly, was only a small boy dressed in his team’s kit and whose title was derived from the five blue shields – or Quinas – on Portugal’s coat of arms. Kinas, though, was a boy with special powers best showcased by some tremendous halfway-line antics.
UEFA EURO 2008, Austria-Switzerland: Trix and Flix
Twice the presence and twice the fun: Trix and Flix, the mysterious twins from the Alps, dazzled and confused in equal measure. Each representing one of the home nations, the mischievous duo were even granted an official soundtrack. Their backing music – Shaggy’s Feel the Rush – provoked boogieing aplenty and set the tone for a pair of partygoers so off-script that their animated image, unlike any of their predecessors’, did not even need a football.
UEFA EURO 2012, Poland-Ukraine: Slavek and Slavko
It is always important to get approval from local dignitaries and the then Polish Football Association (PZPN) president Grzegorz Lato immediately warmed to Slavek and Slavko. “I especially like their hair – 40 years ago I had hair like that,” he said. What hair it was too – brushing the ceiling and dyed in the co-hosts’ national colours in case the team shirts proved inconclusive. The twins could play a bit as well.
UEFA EURO 2016, France: Super Victor
Never has a wayward free-kick been so productive. A miscued garden effort led Super Victor – at this stage just called Victor, we can only presume – to stumble upon a magic cape, boots and ball. Suddenly, he could fly from host city to host city – an especially useful superpower for a EURO mascot.