Ronaldo gushes on the way to armadillo as Brazil 2014 chooses endangered mascot

 

Sporting mascots have a long history of being bizarre creations, from Naranjito, the surreal smiling orange chosen to represent the 1982 World Cup in Spain, right up to the downright baffling one-eyed drops of steel, Wenlock and Mandeville, used to promote this year's London Olympics.

So, the adoption of an armadillo for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil barely registers on the weird-ometer. That is until legendary striker Ronaldo, on unveiling the currently nameless mascot during a TV programme late on Sunday, started to talk about the armadillo as if he were a living, breathing creature.

"The mascot will play a key ambassadorial role in the next two years," said Ronaldo, who played in three World Cups and was an unused squad member in 1994. "I'm sure he will inspire many young football fans in Brazil and all over the world with the great passion which he has for the sport and for his country."

But if Ronaldo is guilty of anthropomorphism in his enthusiasm for the mascot, who will be named by the Brazilian public, there can be no negativity about the reason for choosing the armadillo, which is usually found in north-eastern Brazil and is under threat of extinction. "The fact the three-banded armadillo is a vulnerable species is very fitting," Fifa's Jérôme Valcke said. "One of the objectives for this World Cup is to build a platform to communicate the importance of the environment and ecology."

Armadillos roll up into a ball when they feel threatened, a tactic England have also been known to adopt at World Cups.

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