Official Mascots have come to play a more and more important role in the FIFA World Cup as they represent the fun side of the event. Cast as a variety of animals, fruit, vegetables and children (plus one or two abstract characters), their infectiously positive attitude have added to the atmosphere of each competition in their own unique way.

Official Mascots not only serve to promote the event and entertain the crowd in the stadium, but also become worldwide "celebrities" through their extensive use by the Commercial Affiliates of the FIFA World Cup for licensing and merchandising programmes.

The first Official Mascot was introduced at the 1966 FIFA World Cup -- 'Willie', a British lion decked out in the Union Jack flag. As well as being a 'live' Mascot, he appeared as a cartoon design that was used to promote the competition and was the subject of the Official Song. Whilst retaining the national interest of the host, the Mascot was used as a way of showing the rest of the world that the event was fun for everyone. Following is a list of the Official Mascots to date:

1966 England World Cup Willie (lion)
1970 Mexico Juanito (boy)
1974 West Germany Tip and Tap (two boys)
1978 Argentina Gauchito (footballer)
1982 Spain Naranjito (orange)
1986 Mexico Pique (hot pepper)
1990 Italy Ciao (stick figure player)
1994 United States Striker (dog)
1998 France Footix (cockerel)
2002 Korea/Japan Spheriks (energy)
2006 Germany GOLEO VI (lion)

GOLEO VI, the party animal
It was one of football's most closely guarded secrets - what would the Official Mascot for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany look like?

The mascot - a towering lion who answers to the name of GOLEO VI -- made a grand entrance onto the world stage 573 days before kick-off of the tournament. Flanked on both sides by football legends Pele and OC President Franz Beckenbauer, GOLEO VI was presented to an audience of millions on the German-speaking Saturday prime time TV show "Wetten, dass...?"

In the run-up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, FIFA and the Organising Committee looked back on history as well as the current plethora of characters to come up with a concept for the new mascot. They decided to part from the recent trend towards 'paper-based' cartoons and to opt for a "live" mascot who could walk, talk, sing and dance and generally entertain fans both on TV and at the stadiums. FIFA and the OC started working with The Jim Henson Company, creators of such classics as "Sesame Street" and the "Muppet Show", in 2003 to find a character that would combine a richness of personality with an engaging presence in a bid to enchant everyone from celebrities to children who meet the mascot face-to-face.

The creative concept was researched amongst children, parents and late-teen/early twenties football fans in Germany and following many rounds of development, a character was chosen that fit the bill.

What singled out the 2.30 metre tall furry GOLEO VI from previous mascots is that he was a true personality with a life history. He could talk, walk and dance and trade witticisms with the best wisecrackers in the business. GOLEO VI had set himself one overriding task and has made it his sole priority: he wanted the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany to be one huge, joyful and unforgettable party, spending his time as the "King of Parties" celebrating, singing and dancing with fans from all over the world for four whole weeks.

This sociable lion featured on magazines covers, appeared in shop windows and on screens, had a long list of show appearances and even had great success with his own music record.

GOLEO VI was accompanied on his travels around the world by Pille, a speaking football endowed with a gamut of facial expressions. Pille is the brainchild of the Gum Studios in Cologne.