Barring a dramatic turn of events, the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ will be held in Russia. That means FIFA executives and Russia’s local organizing committee (LOC) members are chest-deep in logistical planning. One of the logistical matters that requires attention is the selection of the official 2018 FIFA World Cup™ mascot. Much to the pleasure of children and bloggers around the world, that process is already well underway.

FIFA just announced the top 10 finalists for the 2018 mascot position. The finalists were drawn from an online survey taken by approximately 51,000 participants.

Vitaly Mutko, Chairman of the Russia 2018 LOC and Russian Sports Minister, noted the importance of the mascot process. “For all FIFA World Cup fans the mascot will encapsulate our country,” he said. “It should be one of the tournament’s most colorful and recognizable characters. So it is really important to engage and involve Russians as much as possible in its design.”

That’s right. The 2018 mascot will be a mascot of the Russian people, and by the Russian people. So who (or what) are the finalists? The 10 finalists include an Amur Tiger, Bogatyr (a legendary medieval Russian figure), a wolf, a Far Eastern leopard, a firebird, an alien, a cosmonaut, a cat, a bear and a robot.

Huh, you ask? Well, this video should help clear things up.

I don’t know if the person who made that is on drugs. Really, I can’t say. But I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone who does serious mascot work has a drug problem.

This is how we got to where we are today:

Maybe the only thing you’ve heard about Russian soccer involves awful racism and people not getting paid. That’s understandable. Lots of terrible news comes out of Russia. So maybe it makes a little sense to think that a public mascot survey would result in a mad result.

But that’s slightly unfair. Painting all Russians with a broad, bigotted stroke because of swaths of unsavory characters in soccer stands, politics and business gives the impression that everyone in Russia is a ruthless strongman. And that’s just not true, perhaps particularly with the youth.

Tiger. That’s reasonable, I guess. And you people were probably expecting a racist Russian bear named Impunity because you’re all terrible people.

What about you kiddos over yonder?

Tsarevich sounds like a name kids would attach to a Russian Tsar to make him seem cuddly because he hands out candy to children and smiles in public a lot. Little do they know, Tsarevich steals children from their families and sends them to labor camps if he even hears a rumor about dissent from parents. Then again, I’m no Russian historian. Tsarevich could very well mean “applesauce.”

[Googles Tsarevich.]

Oh. I see. Moving on, then.

Bears are fun. Well, mascot bears are fun. Also, apparently, shrewd and sporty.

The survey also asked participants to select mascot characteristics: 32% of participants said the mascot should be “sporty,” 31% said “competitive,” 29% wanted a “team player,” while 26% selected “smart.” For some reason, 23% of survey participants chose “honourable.”

Russians were also asked about mascots accessories. Survey participants selected a soccer ball, cleats, a whistle, watch, gloves and a backpack. Weirdly, no one said “a Picasso painting.”

Now, this one is interesting.

These two sentences suggest that something is getting lost in translation. This is either the most Russian pairing of sentences ever uttered, or one of the editors is just making things up so he or she can do an American accent impression in front of friends later tonight. They’ll all laugh mid-swig. So little girl say, “I suggest falcon. His name is Best Player.” Haha. That’s how Americans think we talk. I meant to write “Falcao” but the joke is still funny, no? Anyway, let’s drink. The idea of a Russian mocking an American speaking English with a terrible Russian accent is hilarious.

So far, the mascot selection process has been full of entertainment.

The next stage of the 2018 mascot selection process involves student design. According to FIFA’s Marketing Director Thierry Weil, design students will be invited “to submit their proposals based on the top ten characters, which will allow Russian creative talent to be reflected in one of the key brand elements of the FIFA World Cup.”

Here comes #BrandRussia, y’all.

Russians will vote on the three best designs as the final step. The result will be unveiled in 2016. And no, there’s almost zero chance that the mascot will be named Impunity. You’re going to have to let that go.

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