Is there a conspiracy in Germany to sabotage the World Cup? Anyone taking an interest in the official mascots may think so. The latest, an eagle to front the national team, is already stirring embarrassment.
Just over six months to go before the World Cup kicks off in Germany and the competition is already white hot.
While there will be no competitive games for the finalists between now and the first game on June 9, there is another gripping competition taking place in Germany right now. It is being fought out by a number of nameless, faceless advertising and public relations experts who are engaged in a race to design the worst sporting mascot of all time.
Goleo and laughing logo deal the first blows
The trousers went that way
Soccer's most prestigious event is already saddled with the embarrassment that is Goleo IV, the exhibitionist, trouser-less lion -- and his highly disturbing sidekick, the talking ball known as Pille -- while the 2006 World Cup logo should hang its laughing heads in shame.
But in an attempt not to be outdone by the official tournament mascots, the German national team has commissioned its own figurehead to lead the host nation into battle for the game's greatest prize.
The team's mascot for the 2006 World Cup will be a currently nameless, although "amusing," eagle, according to German sports paper Sport Bild. Based on the German crest which adorns the national team's shirts, the eagle is due to flap its way onto the international scene at its official unveiling before the Germany-USA friendly in Dortmund on March 22.
"Drunken penguin" staggers into the race
Paule, Knipsi, Horst or Butzi? It won't make much difference
Its infamy is likely to have exceeded any possible anticipation by the time it lurches onto the pitch at the Westfalenstadion next year. The eagle, with its huge beak and stumpy boot-clad feet, is already being referred to as "the drunken penguin" and is the subject of a name-the-bird competition in Sport Bild which could see the obviously challenged beast further burdened with a cutesy, cringy name.
Readers have four names to choose from: Paule, Knipsi, Horst or Butzi. The lucky winners of the competition will be guests of honor at the friendly match in Dortmund while the runners-up will win signed soccer shirts.
While watching Germany against the United States will be the main draw for most, there should be at least some interest as to how Goleo and the eagle will get on.
One thing in the eagle's favor is that it's not adverse to clothing below the waist. The battle to be the most embarrassing could well be a stalemate, but in a fight to the death the smart money is on the lion.