La Liga Lowdown’s World Cup of LaLiga Mascots
Written by Alex Brotherton
As you may have seen over the past few days, here at La Liga Lowdown we held the first-ever LLL World Cup of LaLiga Mascots over on our Twitter page. And what a tournament it’s been. We’ve seen everything from thumping victories to last-gasp wins, controversy to elation, a giant cucumber with a cult following to a bat that could do a decent job in Marcelo Bielsa’s spying detail, and everything in between. All the things you’d expect from a World Cup, really.
In what now seems to be the norm when it comes to major football tournaments, the organisers came under heavy criticism before a ball had even been kicked (or a dance-move busted out in this case). Mallorca fans (including La Liga Lowdown’s Alex Fitzpatrick) voiced their anger at the apparent exclusion of the club’s horned devil mascot, Dimonió, from the competition. While Dimonió may well have been recently crowned champion of the official Torneo Mascotas LaLiga, the La Liga Lowdown executive committee did not invite the mascot-incarnation of Satan to take part because, well, they forgot. Anyway, the show must go on as they say, and so the quarter-finals began with an interesting matchup.
Súper Pepino (Leganés) vs Groguet (Villarreal)
Under normal circumstances, one might fairly assume that a cucumber taking on a submarine is a grotesquely unbalanced match-up, a David versus Goliath affair. But this is the world of LaLiga mascots we’re talking about, and going into this one Leganés’ Súper Pepino was odds-on favourite.
Based on the club’s nickname Los Pepineros (The Cucumbers, as Leganés is historically a fruit-and-veg growing area), the loveable cucumber has achieved social media stardom with his off the pitch antics, which include firing T-shirts into the crowd at Butarque (a fair few of which actually ended up in the car park) and meeting fellow pickle Mr. Dillon, mascot of US college baseball team the Portland Pickles, in a well-planned PR move.
Groguet, bless him, never really stood a chance against such a well-oiled publicity machine. Villarreal’s submarine (that weirdly has arms and legs) is admittedly a showman himself – it’s a common site to see him moonwalking or flossing down at the Estadio de la Cerámica.
It’s all well and good having silky moves, but you don’t get far without a bit of nous, a bit of know-how. One swift canon-propelled T-shirt to the hull and this submarine was sunk. The cucumber takes it.
Palmerín (Real Betis) vs Txurdin (Real Sociedad)
Rarely does a mascot have such an affinity with a club as Palmerín. Adored by fans and players in equal measure, Real Betis’ palm tree has been getting involved with goal celebrations for years – joining pile-ons, being chucked up in the air, handing Finidi George his hat. With his cheeky grin and his floppy locks of green hair, he’s the kid at school that everyone thought was a bit weird but kind of cool.
But where there are cool kids, there are always stragglers trying to tag along. Introducing Txurdin, Real Sociedad’s football mascot wearing a crown that his mum made him for World Book Day. He’s not cool. He tries his best, joining team photos, high-fiving kids, but with his timid half-smile, he looks like he’d wet himself in a game of playground football.
Easy win for Parlmerín.
Blau & Grana (Levante) vs Zorro Babazorro (Aláves)
Levante made history with Blau and Grana, becoming the first LaLiga club to have both male and female mascots. The pair were introduced in 2016 in order to teach the values of the club to its younger fans; humility, respect, integration, overcoming challenges. But this isn’t just a moral crusade – the slightly radioactive looking frogs have got enough talent in their webbed feet to make Ronaldinho look like Jonathan Woodgate. They put Michael Owen to shame with the amount of kick-ups they did in their official unveiling video.
Zorro Babazorro, Aláves’ wily old fox, stood in their way. The elder statesman of LaLiga mascots, Zorro has been around since 1997 and is part of the furniture at the Estadio Mendizorroza.
But, despite several makeovers over the years, he’s tired. 23 years in football is a long time, and Blau and Grana reminded Babazorro of this by mercilessly nutmegging him and bamboozling him with elásticos.
Perico & Perica (Espanyol) vs Súper Rat (Valencia)
Just look at them, the prom king and queen. Everyone loves them; they look gorgeous, they can dance, they’ve got nice hair and nice clothes. Perico and Perica, Espanyol’s parakeet couple, are the Danny and Sandy of the mascot world. But Súper Rat doesn’t care.
Súper Rat, despite his name, is Valencia’s bat, and he’s always up to no good. He may look slightly docile, like he’s just overheard something that he shouldn’t have, but it’s all an act. He knows what he’s doing. You don’t get to go and spy on a Barcelona training session and carry out surveillance on the best player in the world by being nice.
He obliterates the loved-up birds in the polls. Perico and Perica are too busy having a couple’s photoshoot to even notice.
Súper Pepino vs Palmerín
This was a real clash of the titans, LaLiga’s two favourite plant-based heroes fighting tooth and nail for a spot in the final. It would have made a fitting final this one, but that’s just fate. No pre-determined draws or heated balls to see here. The two of them are actually good friends really – they got on like a house on fire when Súper Pepino travelled with Leganés to the Benito Villamarín earlier this season to face Real Betis. But at this stage of the competition, business is business. Pepino takes it 60%-40%.
Blau & Grana vs Super Rat
Is there anything better than a high-stakes derby? The city of Valencia waited with bated breath as the mascots of its two premier clubs went head-to-head. As soon as voting opened, Blau & Grana took an early lead, but there is such a thing as scoring too early, isn’t there? Super Rat’s done his homework (spying) on his amphibious opponents and knows their every move. Pirouettes, stepovers, dummies; the frogs try everything but they just can’t get past the bat. Two lightning-quick counter-attacks later and Súper Rat is in the final. A man down and up against significantly more skilled opponents, he’s produced a José Mourinho-esque tactical masterclass. (Back when José still did that.)
Súper Pepino vs Súper Rat
DIE MEISTER, DIE BESTEN, LES GRANDES ÉQUIPES, THE CHAAAAMMMPIONNNNSSSS.
This is it, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the battle of the super mascots. But if we’re honest, it wasn’t the greatest of finals. Both were exhausted after their herculean efforts in the previous round, and so it’s a bit of a damp squib. A bit Liverpool v Spurs to be honest. But in the end, Súper Pepino gets the job done. It’s a first major honour in Leganés’ 91-year history and causes such jubilation back home that a statue of Pepino is commissioned. Congratulations Súper Pepino, a worthy winner.
Dimonió sits in hell and watches the action on TV, empty beer cans and crisp packets strewn around him. He’s fuming. He feels like Raúl González in 2007, a titan of the game sacrificed for a change of image and philosophy.
Nice, cuddly mascots are boring, he tells himself. He will get revenge.
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