By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter

BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – In a nod to both the environmental challenges facing the country and its extraordinary ecological diversity, Brazil has revealed that its mascot for the 2014 World Cup will be an endangered armadillo.

Ronaldo unveiled Brazil's mascot for the 2014 World Cup, an armadillo
Ronaldo unveiled Brazil’s mascot for the 2014 World Cup, an armadillo, on Sunday, image recreation.

Former Brazil striker Ronaldo, who played in three world cups, revealed the mascot Sunday night on TV Globo, which holds the rights to broadcast the Cup.

“The mascot will play a key ambassadorial role in the next two years,” Ronaldo said.

“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.”

The Brazilian public will pick a name for the saucer-eyed cartoon mammal from three options: Amijubi, a combination of the Portuguese words for “friendship” and “joy,” Fuleco, a mash-up of “football” and “ecology” and Zuzeco, which references “blue” – like the caricature’s leathery shell – and “ecology.”

Brazil’s armadillo joins the ranks of such characters as France’s ‘Footix,’ the soccer-playing rooster of 1998’s World Cup, South Africa’s ‘Zakumi’ the leopard in 2010, ‘Pique’ the chillipepper from Mexico 1986, and, of course, ‘World Cup Willie,’ England’s Lion mascot way back in 1966.

The three-banded armadillo is indigenous to Brazil and is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN’s Red List, which monitors and categorises endangered species according to their risk of extinction. According to the red list, the armadillo has seen its population decline by more than 30 percent over the past decade, due to “ongoing exploitation and habitat loss and degradation.”

“The fact that the three-banded armadillo is a vulnerable species is very fitting,” said FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke. “One of the key objectives through the 2014 FIFA World Cup is to use the event as a platform to communicate the importance of the environment and ecology. We are glad to be able to do so with the help of a mascot who I’m sure will be much-loved, not only in Brazil, but all over the world.”

Read more (in Portuguese).

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