Two months ago, FIFA announced that it had narrowed downs its choices for the Russia 2018 World Cup mascots to three: tiger, cat, and wolf. On Oct. 21, FIFA announced that Zabivaka the wolf has been officially selected as the 2018 World Cup mascot. Creators and designers initially expected Russia to incorporate the bear as its official mascot, considering that Russia has a vast array of bear species. However, Zabivaka has come out as the clear-cut winner in an announcement on Russia's Channel 1 television, with both Local Organizing Committee Chairman Vitaly Mutko and Brazilian football legend Ronaldo in attendance. Ronaldo previously unveiled the 2014 World Cup mascot in Brazil.
Nearly one million fans cast their votes on FIFA.com, with Zabivaka receiving 53 percent of the votes. The tiger landed in second place behind Zabivaka with 27 percent of the vote, while the cat mascot received only 20 percent of the vote. An online poll was created to gauge Russian students' mascot design preferences. Upon gathering the final poll results, university students submitted several designs which were subsequently released to the public to choose from, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura said.
Zabivaka, designed by Ekaterina Bocharova, a 21-year-old graphic design student at Tomsk State University, means "the one who scores." According to FIFA.com, Zabivaka is "charming, confident, and social" and will become an "ambassador for Russia and a worldwide 'celebrity'". Although Bocharova is expected to make potentially significant revenue through Zabivaka merchandise and advertisements, Russian news outlet TASS reported that the 21-year-old student received only $500 for her efforts. FIFA now owns the rights to Zabivaka the wolf.
World cup mascots are not only known to promote events, matches, and act as marketing ambassadors for FIFA and the host country. Mascots have also traditionally sought to shed light upon wildlife animal species in the host country, particularly endangered species. For example, in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Fuleco brought attention to Brazil’s endangered armadillo. Similarly, Boharova's Zabivaka design attempts to highlight the vast array of animal species present in Russia, not only the bear, which Russia is widely known for around the globe. Bocharova told Russia Today (RT), "But at least my mascot will help them learn that the bear is not the only animal we have in Russia."
Zabivaka joins a list of past world cup mascots, such as: Fuleco the armadillo in 2014 in Brazil; Zakumi the leopard in 2010 in South Africa; Geleo V the lion in 2006 in Germany, among others. I think predicting the outcomes of an all time World Cup mascot battle may actually be my next piece.
As a reminder, the 2018 World Cup will be held from June 14 to July 15. 12 stadiums will host world cup matches in 11 Russian cities.