On 22 September the official mascot of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ was unveiled in Johannesburg. 'Zakumi' is the name of the new star who now has the unenviable task of replacing Goleo VI.

That fans still have a soft spot for the mascot used for 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany was shown by a recent poll conducted by FIFA.com. Goleo VI, the two-metre tall furry lion dressed in the German team colours was voted the most popular mascot of the last five FIFA World Cups™, receiving almost a third (28.5 per cent) of the total votes cast. Not surprisingly, Goleo VI, along with Pille his constant companion and talking football, were rated even higher amongst German voters where they gained nearly half (45.32 percent) of all votes. Footix, the official mascot of 1998 FIFA World Cup France, came a very close second, with the friendly cockerel polling just under one per cent (27.61) fewer votes than Goleo.

There was a neck-and-neck race for the third to fifth places, with Striker, the dog who sported the host’s colours at USA 1994, narrowly claiming third spot with 16.56 percent of the votes. Ciao, the official mascot from Italy 1990, took fourth place (14.85 percent) while Ato, Kaz und Nik, the three computer-animated mascots of Korea/Japan 2002, picked up fifth spot (12.48 percent).

Now it’s time for Zakumi to take centre-stage in his role as the official mascot of South Africa 2010. The leopard will be the 12th mascot used at a FIFA World Cup finals following the introduction of Willie at the 1966 tournament in England. Four years later at Mexico 1970 it was the turn of Juanito with his enormous sombrero to add some colour to the proceedings, before Tip and Tap, two friendly boys bedecked in black and white kits, followed at West Germany 1974. Gauchito (Argentina 1978), Naranjito (Spain 1982), and Pique (Mexico 1986) each had the honour of gracing the stage at a FIFA World Cup as the official mascot.

Four of the 12 FIFA World Cup mascots even had the pleasure to witness the hosts winning the coveted Trophy on home soil: Willie at England 1966, Tip and Tap at Germany 1974, Gauchito at Argentina 1978 and most recently Footix at the 1998 tournament in France.

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