The best mascot the U.S. could come up with for the 1994 World Cup was a generic-looking brown dog with one foot on a soccer ball and his mind on chasing cars, taking naps and, well, anything except playing soccer. Because, you know, we don't care about soccer here. But at least it wasn't an ethnic stereotype or offensive representation of the host country, which is more the norm, judging by an illuminating Fast Company slideshow. (There have also been some vaguely creepy characters in the mix.) Take a look at some of the World Cup mascots of yore: an Argentine cowboy with a whip in his hand; British World Cup Willie, the first mascot, from 1966, who's inexplicably sporting an '80s rocker hairdo; and Pique, a jalapeno pepper wearing a giant sombrero, baggy clothes and huge 'stache that Fast Company finds "just a hair behind Speedy Gonzalez" in the gross-cultural-stereotype department. This year's mascot is kind of a head-scratcher, if you could find his noggin in that big bouffant. Zakumi, a leopard who'll preside over the tournament starting June 11, represents "the people, geography and spirit of South Africa," according to a FIFA statement. But there's still no explanation for that hair.
—Posted by T.L. Stanley