626 days before the start of the first African FIFA World Cup™ at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg on 11 June 2010, the cloud of secrecy surrounding the Official Mascot has been lifted. Embedded in a vibrant African-themed live TV show that was broadcast nationwide, Zakumi today (22 September 2008) made his official debut in front of an audience of millions on South Africa's primetime SABC Coca-Cola Soccer Zone.
The Official Mascot, a leopard, has been designed and produced exclusively in the host country. The name is a composition of "ZA", standing for South Africa, and "kumi" translating into "10" in various languages across Africa. Inspired by his football idols, Zakumi has dyed his hair green as he felt it would be the perfect camouflage against the green of the football pitch.
"Zakumi represents the people, geography and spirit of South Africa, personifying in essence the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We are certain we will have a lot of fun with him in the lead-up to and during the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup," said FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke.
The original creator of the design is Andries Odendaal from Cape Town, and the mascot costume itself was produced by Cora Simpson of Cora's Costumes cc in Boksburg. "Zakumi is a proud South African and, as such, an ideal ambassador for the first African World Cup. He was born in 1994, the same year as the country's democracy. He is young, energetic, smart and ambitious, a real inspiration for young and old, not only in our country," explained Danny Jordaan.
Lucas Radebe, who has spent the last few days with Zakumi, said that: "He is extremely proud to be the Official Mascot and determined to be the best host possible for all fans visiting our beloved country of South Africa. I am sure he will be a great animator for fans and players as well as for all of us small and grown-up kids."
The tradition of the Official FIFA World Cup Mascot has been in place for more than 40 years. World Cup Willie was the first-ever FIFA World Cup Mascot, invented for the 1966 tournament in England. Official Mascots have come to play a more and more important role in the FIFA World Cup™ as with their infectiously positive attitude, they have over the years added to the atmosphere of each competition in their own unique way.
For more stories and exciting videos on and around Zakumi and his predecessors, please visit the official website, www.FIFA.com/Zakumi.