The jury is out on Goleo VI. The official mascot of the 2006 World Cup already provoked debate when it was unveiled in mid-November 2004 and is still the subject of heated discussions.
Comedians and critics of every persuasion have poured scorn on the trouserless cuddly lion, with Erik Spiekermann, designer of logos for Audi and Volkswagen and a teacher at Bremen School of Arts, dismissing Goleo as an "absolute catastrophe."
Yet, kids' eyes light up when Goleo makes an appearance. And football icon Pele is also a fan.
"Fantastic. He's a great mascot," the Brazilian enthused.
The German association of active football fans (BAFF) has christened the lion Prolleo, in a play on the word proletarian, and wants to shove a bottle of beer in his hand and have him mingle with the crowd.
The lion and his constant companion Pille, a football with two eyes and a mouth, represent something of a novelty. Forty years after a World Cup mascot was first introduced in England in 1966, this is the first time that the world football federation FIFA has presented a "living" character.
The 2.3m tall lion can speak, dance and has comical features. In this way he is much more versatile than, for example, his cartoon predecessors Tip and Tap brought out the last time Germany hosted the tournament in 1974.
The head of the World Cup organizing committee Franz Beckenbauer praised the omnipresent mascot in a television show as a "goodwill bearer."
The mascot was designed by the Jim Henson Company in Los Angeles, the company that created such famous characters as Kermit the frog of the Muppet Show, and Ernie and Bert of the children's series Sesame Street.
Goleo, who holds the chatterbox Pille in his left hand, is played by four teams of puppeteers.
The bare-bottomed lion, who wears only a jersey and football boots, has also been at the center of a slick marketing campaign.
He has made it into the music charts in Germany with the song Love Generation and has also featured on stamps.
Martin Paas slips into the costume that is fitted with a monitor. The puppeteer says he doesn't mind being the butt of jokes and derision.
"It's fashionable to run down Goleo, but he's actually rather cute," he said.
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