World Cup mascot Goleo VI

The exuberant and welcoming atmosphere at the 2006 football World Cup in Germany changed the image of Germany abroad for the better. Whilst the nation was united in its enjoyment of the festival of football, divisions on the World Cup mascot Goleo VI were pronounced.

Goleo VI: The mascot of the German Football World Cup

World Cup organizers wanted to design a special mascot for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. To this end, FIFA introduced Goleo VI, describing him as a “complex, almost life-like character”. He was able to speak, dance, make music and his comedic character was supposed to make him a dazzling personality.

FIFA even came up with a backstory: Goleo got his name from his father, who always cheered him on when playing football with “Go, Leo, go!” The name is a pun on the English word “goal” and the Latin “leo”, meaning “lion”. FIFA added the number VI (six) because he was the sixth applicant for the job of official mascot and this matched the year 2006.

High-tech mascot from the USA

The original Goleo VI was 2.3 metres tall, wore size 58 shoes and was operated by a puppeteer from inside the lion. The movements of his mouth and arms were controlled by the puppeteer’s hands. A camera in lion’s eye transmitted to a screen inside the animal to orient the operator. The lip movements of Goleo’s faithful companion, a football called Pille, which he always carried with him, were controlled from outside by another puppeteer.

Developed and built by the master puppeteers from the Jim Henson Company, famed for Sesame Street an

Das Maskottchen Goleo und sein Sidekick Pille

The mascot Goleo and his sidekick Pille Press photo, 2004 (Source: FIFA)

A lion without trousers?

Unfortunately, the mascot did not enjoy the same warm reception as the tournament that he accompanied. The German press and public in particular poured scorn on the somewhat clumsy appearance of Goleo and poked fun at his lack of trousers. Not even the support of Franz Beckenbauer was able to generate any support for the unfortunate animal. His opinion that “Goleo VI is really a nice lad and looks great” had greater resonance in the international press than at home.

A lack of trousers has traditionally never been a problem for cartoon characters: animal superstars like Donald Duck have done without them for years. Perhaps the problem was the involvement of FIFA, the all-powerful world football association with a poor reputation amongst fans.

Tempers have cooled with the passage of time, and the majority of visitors to the Deutschlandmuseum like the lumbering lion on display with other World Cup memorabilia. After all, Goleo VI was not a complete failure. Not only was he the first talking mascot in World Cup history, but he even beat football legends Pelé and Beckenbauer in the penalty shoot-out!

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