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Page last updated at 23:03 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 00:03 UK

Leopard takes World Cup spotlight

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Leopard mascot dances onto world stage

A cuddly leopard with green hair has been unveiled as the mascot of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The character, called Zakumi, has been given his own biography and name to reflect the country's aims and hopes.

Organisers said the character was 'born' on 16 June, 1994 - the year in which apartheid ended.

The date is celebrated as Youth Day to mark the 1976 Soweto uprising when young protesters struck a blow against white rule.

At the mascot's introduction at a state TV studio, a performer in a Zakumi costume kicked around a football with Mark Fish, who helped lead South Africa to the African Cup of Nations title in 1996.

The name Zakumi is made up of the initials 'ZA', standing for South Africa, and 'Kumi', meaning 10 in many African languages.

Tim Modise, spokesman for the South African organising committee, said Zakumi also can be understood as "Come here" in southern African languages.

606: DEBATE

Jerome Valcke, secretary of football governing body Fifa, said: "Zakumi represents the people, geography and spirit of South Africa.

"We are certain we will have a lot of fun with him in the lead-up to and during the Fifa Confederations Cup and the World Cup."

Andries Odendaal, from Cape Town, came up with the design - the animal's green hair is designed to provide 'camouflage' on a football pitch.

Fifa first introduced mascots in 1966 with World Cup Willie - a Union Jack-clad English Lion.

Others included the orange-shaped Naranjito in Spain in 1982, the 'ciao' stick-figure in Italian colours in 1990 and Footix, a French cockerel, in 1998.


see also
Blatter "disappointed" in Bafana
15 Sep 08 |  African
Fans get World Cup ticket boost
09 Jul 08 |  Internationals
Free 2010 tickets for SA public
24 Nov 07 |  Internationals
Blatter's constructive criticism
24 Nov 07 |  African


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