There was a very special guest in attendance for Azerbaijan’s recent UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying match against Austria at Baku’s Dalga Arena: the official mascot for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012.
Taking to the pitch just minutes before kick-off and dressed in a green, blue, red and white football kit, echoing the colours of the national flag painted on her cheeks, she brought a smile to the faces of the fans. Still to receive a name, the tall, long-legged mascot wore her brown hair in a ponytail designed to resemble what is known as a buta, a curving decorative motif widely used in Azeri art.
The following day, the in-demand mascot took part in a jobs and training fair held at the Baku Exhibition Centre before attending a seminar at the Azeri capital’s International School a few days later. Staged jointly by the Local Organising Committee and FIFA’s Media Department, the seminar discussed the theme of 'Teamwork in Football'.
The mascot has a host of other engagements between now and the start of Azerbaijan 2012, which runs from 22 September to 13 October next year. In the meantime, the Azeri Football Association (AFFA) is holding a competition to find a name for the cheery figure, who will be hoping to inspire the host nation when they welcome the world next autumn.