Euro Mascot to be Joking…
So, the less said about the newly announced France 2016 mascot the better. After the design masterpieces that were Peno and Footix, the new representative of la belle France (a slightly creepy kid with a red cape) is yet to be named, which is open to a public vote – the options are “Driblou”, “Goalix”, and “Super Victor”(whether Wanyama, Ibarbo, or Hugo Montano is yet to be confirmed), but there’s a colouring book to download. Click on the link if you have a burning desire to have your say.
Maybe this just isn’t what the French are best at. Mascots are an important part of the English game, doing their bit to provide moral support to the team, and engage the fans; joining in with the minute’s silence, suffering an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction and having to be helped out by their opposite number, getting into punch-ups, being sent off for offering a pair of glasses to an assistant referee, firing T-shirts out of a cannon. But what of France? Is La Mascotte as important a position in French football?
This took some very involved googling.
Rennes have Erminig, the occasionally skateboarding Ermine, who joined Twitter this season in honour of SRFC’s fun-day for season-ticket holders (and immediately had to be told he was using the wrong hashtag by the club’s official feed). As well as the usual photo-opportunities with young fans and doing a stint in goal at the event, one early tweet suggests that somebody with a sense of humour and decent photoshop skills is at work here. He was also on hand to help out when OM came to visit in the league cup (see right).
But why an ermine? Our Rennes-supporting writer Bastien explains :
L’Hermine (ermine, or stoat) has been a symbol of Brittany since an ermine hunted by Anne of Bretagne was stuck by a muddy river and decided to face her and die rather than be soiled. Hence the motto ‘plutôt la mort que la souillure‘ – death rather than defilement.
Nantes – a canary, of course. The FCN Museum has some photos of former mascot Riri, and other merchandise featuring Titi (aka Tweety-pie). These days there doesn’t appear to be a pitch-side presence, although our Nantes-supporting writer Simon reports that there is a guy in the Tribune Loire who takes a large cuddly canary to matches with him. Sweet.
Effortlessly combining these first two characters, and given FCN’s historic rivalry Rennes, SRFC put together this video for last season’s derby which is, well, just disturbing…
Reims – Auguste le Lion, on the basis that the club from the city where the kings of France were crowned for five centuries should be represented by the king of the animals, which at least shows that some thought has gone into it.
Paris-SG – Germain le Lynx was signed in 2010, and managed to keep his place in the squad even after the QSI takeover. He’s hoping to get a start in central defence at some point this season.
Lyon – Yoann Gourcuff. No, seriously, it’s Lyou the Lion.
Lorient – Merlux the Merlu – that’s ‘hake’ for non-French speakers. The ‘five port city’ lands a lot of fish.
Evian T-G – They used to have Danonino – possibly a dinosaur – but ETG decided to beef up their attack for the 2013/14 season and made a new signing (i.e. the fans voted for the animal and name) and now they have … Rosie the Marmot. Possibly a bit leftfield but we can’t find the original list they had to choose from.
Caen – a viking. Called ‘Viking’. The name is also used by several of the SMC supporter groups, and one fan actually organised an overseas tour for the mascot.
Lille – Doggy Dog the…Dog, a slightly intimidating looking beast. Before being transferred to Valencia in January 2011, Adil Rami made sure that his last appearance for LOSC was one of his weirdest, as he donned the mascot’s costume and proceeded to cut some rug before the supporters. Stand by for another slightly bewildering video.
Sadly, Doggy did not make the move to the new Stade Pierre-Mauroy, but the new key figure is the statue of le Dogue, beside which new signings have their photo taken (in Corchia’s case, twice), at the training complex. As our Lille-supporting writer Andrew explains:
Le Dogue commemorates former Olympique Lillois president Henri Jooris, who used to stand at the side of the pitch with his huge black dog to watch the games. That OL merged with SC Fives to form LOSC in 1944.
Marseille – Nino, a human boy, with terrible hair, who doesn’t seem to appear at matches, but features on a wide range of merchandise and in the OM official bande-dessinee, Droit au But. Possibly he is Driblou/Goalix/Super Victor’s older brother.
Saint-Etienne – Panteo, a black panther. As well as being the mascot for the kids’ club, the panther motif has turned up on their bus, merchandise, and inspired last season’s pretty cool away strip, and also possibly the since discontinued shorts sponsorship arrangement with a petfood firm.
Metz – Graoully the Dragon, another slightly scary one, still evoked today to threaten naughty kids. Our Metz-supporting writer Jeremy explains :
Basically the Graoully lived in Metz’s Roman amphitheatre and terrorised the town’s inhabitants. Saint Clement, the first bishop of Metz, came to the town and in return for the inhabitants converting to Christianity, he did the sign of the cross, which tamed the Graoully (and his snake mates) and, depending on which reports you believe (!) either led him to the Seille river, telling him never to return, or … drowned him in the river. Either way, a fairly obvious allegory of Christianity defeating paganism. Graoully is now one of town’s symbols, on sports teams’ logos, on merchandise etc.
Lens – Ch’ti Lens, a dog who isn’t a massive fan of local rivals Lille. See right.
Bastia – Pistellu. Another lion, another disturbing video. We said Doggy Dog was intimidating, this guy is…let’s just say you probably wouldn’t let him hug your kids, for fear he’d eat them.
And some people just don’t want to have any fun.
Monaco – in the 1970s, due to the proximity of the Monaco Zoo to the stadium, an actual elephant. Bouba (or Bouna) could occasionally be heard over the noise of the crowd (no jokes please, it’s been done). But s/he doesn’t currently appear to be on the roster.
Bordeaux – none, but they did adopt Serge le Llama (get it?) for one game, which did not go down well with large sections of the Girondin support (they lost at home 3-0 to Nantes and the llama gave social media far too many opportunities for jokes).
Toulouse – bit confusing, this one. Some chatter about Bernard le Renard, an anti-smoking fox, but that looks like it might have been some sort of art project. Or they borrowed him from the rugby club. So, not sure they have one. Neither do Guingamp, or Montpellier, although they do have Loulou Nicollin, and maybe one strangely-proportioned character with a penchant for hugging players and doing daft things is enough for a club.
Nice also don’t have a traditional mascot, but they do have a slightly mardy eagle called Mèfi that used to do a tour of the stadium before home fixtures, which fairly quickly went wrong – first, he managed to sulkily ignore his handler and just hang around the centre circle before the grand opening of the Allianz Riviera, and then he landed on the crossbar and refuse to move before a cup match against Monaco, resulting in a stadium ban from the LFP.
And elsewhere – he’s currently plying his trade in Ligue 2, but an honourable mention for Valencygne the Swan of Valenciennes, who won the UNFP trophy for best mascot in 2013. No, really (award since discontinued). Also outside Ligue 1, Dijon have an owl, Nimes a crocodile, and Amiens the truly terrifying Casimir the Unicorn – they and others feature in this round-up from Le Figaro.
Do you have a favourite French Football mascot? Let us know in the comments – if the UNFP aren’t awarding a prize any more, maybe FFW can step into the breach!