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‘Fuleco’ the Mascot Divides Brazil

A public vote campaign, sponsored by Coca Cola, invited Brazilian internet users to choose the name of the future mascot of the 2014 World Cup—an armadillo, a small, endangered animal from Brazil's forests. This small animal, with a very resistant shell, has the ability to roll itself up into a ball when threatened—hence the name Tatu Bola.

Internet campaign, with reference to City of God: “Fuleco, my ass! My name is L'il Zé!” Caricature by Odes on Belo Horizonte from A to Z – Public Domain

Of the 1.7 million voters, 48% chose Fuleco over Zuzeco (31%) and Amijubi (21%).

The three suggestions had been proposed by a committee, composed of Bebeto (ex-player of the Brazilian national football team), Arlindo Cruz (singer and samba composer), Thalita Rebouças (journalist and writer), Roberto Duailibi (publicist) and Fernanda Santos.

Tatu Bola, as the majority of Brazilians already informally call it, created a very strong wave of sympathy in the country, as shown on the official website of the mascot.

As the website states:

As one of the most high-profile ambassadors of the event and a member of a vulnerable species, the Official Mascot can play a key role in driving environmental awareness. The name Fuleco™ is a fusion of the words futebol and ecologia. This seamlessly represents the way in which the FIFA World Cup can combine the two to encourage people to behave in an environmentally friendly way. In voting for the name Fuleco™, the Brazilian population has clearly demonstrated an affinity for both themes that the name epitomises.

However, now, a majority of Brazilians are strongly calling into question the the choice of this name. While citizens agree to highlight the aforementioned values (environment and sports), they regret FIFA's irresponsible choice (in naming the mascot).

In fact, with only two letters, fuleco is transformed to fuleiro. In the northeast, this means liar and lazy, and in the southeast, fuleiro refers to something that is worthless. Fuleco also resembles furreco, meaning very bad quality and worthless.

“Don't embarass us with these names! We don't want Amijubi, Fuleco or Zuleco. His name is Tatu Bola! by Juventude Sustentavel on Facebook with permission

According to internet users that contribute to dictionnaire informel du portugais (informal portuguese dictionary) [pt], fuleco in slang terms is also a synonym for anus, the same usage as our word, ass.

The play on words is particularly suited for Fuleco: fudeco (someone who ****), fumeco (smoker)…

In brief, Fuleco proves to be inappropriate. A number of Brazilians have expressed their anger via social networks, like Facebook or Twitter. Caricature images of Fuleco were shared by the thousands, with comments of shame, anger and regrets—like this mascot page [pt].

A campaign was even launched to call for a change of the mascot's name; for example, renaming it Tatu Bola.

More than 39,000 signatures have already been gathered on a petition [pt] that asks:

Se o Tatu-Bola foi escolhido justamente pela forma e pelo nome, por que o Mascote não pode se chamar simplesmente… Tatu-Bola?

If the character of Tatu Bola had been chosen for its form and name, why couldn't the mascot simply be called…Tatu Balon?

The funniest thing in the story is that the local organizing committee (LOC) and the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) had analyzed 47 names proposed by six Brazilian agencies. They had relied on the testimonials of children between 5 and 12 years-old, the main factor in their decision.

At least the organizers have achieved their goal: making people laugh on the children's playground!

3 comments

  • CL TAN

    If Portuguese were one of FIFA’s official languages this wouldn’t have happened.

  • Well, they pretend to care and get everyone involved through online voting and don’t even think about the consequences and possible innuendoes in the names they chose….I am pretty sure everyone here in SP will call it tatu-bola anyway…and people will buy it because it is really cute! Ah, in tatu-bola, tatu is armadillo and bola is ball…balon is Spanish for ball.

  • […] comment: Fuleco is the name of the World Cup mascot. Its similarity to so many negative words in Portuguese makes it the butt (pun intended) of many […]

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