It all started with World Cup Willie in 1966, one of the first mascots to be associated with a a major sporting competition. Willie was a lion, a typical symbol of the United Kingdom, wearing a Union Jack shirt with the words “World Cup” etched to it.
Juanito, a boy wearing a Mexico’s kit and sombrero followed for Mexico 1970. Naranjito, an orange wearing Spain’s kit, was the Spain 1982’s mascot, Ciao will be forever etched into memory for the Italy 1990 World Cup, while Zakumi, a leopard with green hair, Fuleco, an armadillo wearing a white t-shirt, and Zabivaka, a wolf in colours that reflect the Russian flag and with a name that translates as ‘The Goalscorer, all wrote history by themselves at the last three editions of the FIFA World Cup, at South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018.
Sure, the eyes are etched to the games, following and praising the players who are starring on the pitch, but the FIFA World Cup’s success is also due to the symbols and mascots that are starring close to the tournament, on its outskirts.
And if you watched the exciting opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosted by the luxurious “Al Bayt” Stadium, you surely could not miss the giant ghutra floating over the pitch.
For Qatar 2022, the Local Organising Committee and FIFA have unveiled La’eeb, a ghutra – the Arabic term for a headdress popular in Arab countries, and also known as a keffiyeh – therefore not a ghost or a stingray, as plenty have asked.
Its name is an Arabic word meaning super-skilled player. According to FIFA, La’eeb belongs to a parallel mascot-verse that is indescribable – everyone is invited to interpret what it looks like. La’eeb encourages everyone to believe in themselves as ‘Now is All’. He will bring the joy of football to everyone.
“We are delighted to unveil La’eeb as the Official Mascot for the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world. He comes from the mascot-verse – a place that is indescribable. We encourage everyone to imagine what it looks like.”
La’eeb was announced in April 2022, during the group draw in Doha, in a video which also featured all of the previous mascots of the FIFA World Cup, in a clip that surely woke up some distant memories from the fans.
All of the previous 14 mascots were also presented in replica-sized inflatable costumes during the opening ceremony on the pitch of the “Al Bayt” Stadium, handing the baton over to La’eeb, the floating ghutra that will surely become one of the most iconic mascots in the FIFA World Cup history.
La’eeb made its first official appearance at the opening ceremony on Sunday and it was an instant hit for the fans, its playful and young appearance ready to make them cheer for their favourite teams
“We are sure fans everywhere will love this fun and playful character. La’eeb will play a vital role as we engage fans young and old in Qatar’s FIFA World Cup experience,” said Khalid Ali Al Mawlawi, Deputy Director General, Marketing, Communications and Tournament Experience, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.
According to FIFA, “the courageous and uplifting La’eeb has attended every previous FIFA World Cup tournament and has contributed to some of the most famous moments in football history, including a number of iconic goals.”
La’eeb will be known for his youthful spirit; spreading joy and confidence everywhere he goes. La’eeb comes from a parallel world where tournament mascots live. It is a world where ideas and creativity form the basis of characters that live in the minds of everyone.