This story originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
What is a mascot, really? What is a mascot meant to achieve? A mascot is surely meant to be the relatable, recognisable face of a brand, something that kids and adults alike can empathise with. That is no different for the European Championships, with its long and venerable tradition of dressing men up in giant, foam suits. These suits represent personas, characters that we are meant to trust, and believe in.
So why are Euros mascots all, without exception, utterly horrifying? Why are they a monstrous mish-mash of phallic symbolism and geometric erotica, a parade of disturbing and Mephistopheleanforms?
There are no easy answers to such questions. Come, now, and descend into the sinister and disturbing world of Euros mascots. No, but seriously, it'll be a laugh.
Pinocchio – Euro 1980 (Italy)
The 1980 European Championships were the first of the tournament's modern era, with a group stage and knockout rounds bringing it closer to the World Cup model. To complete the makeover, the tournament also adopted the mascot tradition. Meet Pinocchio, a naked and godless child with no fingers or toes. What he lacks in digits and modesty, Pinocchio makes up his sheer bravado: he stands nude save for a little sailor hat (possibly fashioned from paper) and shamelessly promotes the Opel Kadett. Alas, Pinocchio himself would be unable to drive the car due to his lack of fingers, and the worrying possibility of his infamous nose growing in transit and shattering the Kadett's windshield.
Peno – Euro 1984 (France)
While their 2016 mascot shares its name with a massive dildo, France's 1984 effort was modelled on an actual cock. Meet Peno, an anthropomorphic French cockerel with gigantic feet that must have made playing football (and indeed remaining upright) almost impossible. We're not sure on this, but Peno might also be wearing a nappy. Fortunately the French national side managed not to shit themselves during the 1984 tournament, with the great Michel Platini leading his country to the trophy. Ironically, however, Platini's reputation these days is very much that of a massive cock.
Berni – Euro 1988 (Germany)
When West Germany were chosen to host Euro 1988 their country was on the verge of fundamental change. With the Cold War drawing to a close, the tournament took place less than 18 months before the Berlin wall fell and precipitated the unification of West and East. To reflect the socio-political shift they were about to experience, Germany picked a fitting mascot for Euro '88: a happy little rabbit named Berni. While it might sound nonsensical at first, rabbits symbolise rebirth – insomuch as they are always re-birthing – while their hunger for carrots mirrored the German hunger for a united nation. To "rabbit" also means to talk, something that would be required in abundance as Germany transitioned from two nations into one. A wonderful choice, we think you'll agree.
Rabbit – Euro 1992 (Sweden)
Sweden clearly elected to do the 1992 European Championships on a strict budget. The only noticeable difference between the fine and noble '88 mascot and its '92 successor is the switch of national colours. Having clean ripped off Berni, the rabbit of conciliation and peace, the Swedes might at least have come up with an original name for their mascot. But no, they called him Rabbit. Rabbit the fucking rabbit. Thankfully, Sweden has not hosted a tournament since.
Goliath – Euro 1996 (England)
Famous for the three lions on their shirt, England mysteriously chose a bear as their official mascot for Euro '96. Aside from those kept in zoos or for the amusement of addled 16th-century monarchs, we've not had bears in this country for what, a millennia? Sweden may have been phoning it in with Rabbit the Rabbit, but at least they have rabbits in Sweden. The choice of name is also strange: Goliath. The most famous Goliath – he of Ye Olde Bible – was, famously, an absolute bastard. He was such a bastard that they had to slay him. Slay him dead. England may as well have signed off on Judas the Jackelope.
Benelucky – Euro 2000 (Holland & Belgium)
Euro 2000 marks the final time a non-human mascot was used. Benelucky was described as a "lion with a devil's tail and human hands," a frankly terrifying combination that hints at Satanic gene splicing. What mischief might the devil make for these idle hands? What might Benelucky do, when we least expect it? What is that creaking on the stairs, when you go to sleep at night? Is it the wind? Is it your imagination? Or is it Benelucky, come to sacrifice you on the altar of hell?
Kinas – Euro 2004 (Portugal)
Portugal hosted Euro 2004, eventually reaching the final and losing to plucky little Greece, who staunchly refused to be drawn into a football match at any stage during the tournament. Despite this disappointment, Portugal had the honour of introducing the world to Kinas, the very hairy boy. Here is Kinas performing an overhead kick and showing off his very hairy arms, legs, and indeed fingers. While previous hosts chose actual animals, Portugal found a happy marriage by using a half-human, half-animal wolf child, a monster that the public could relate to. God bless Kinas, the very hairy boy.
Trix & Flix – Euro 2008 (Austria & Switzerland)
Remember the golden age of kids' cartoons? Scooby-Doo, Tom & Jerry and the rest. Much like our hopes and dreams they're very much a thing of the past, with modern kids TV consisting of creepy CGI shows with names like Dinotrux, Cubix, and Skrillex. The same trend has come to dominate the world of European Championships mascots. From 2008 onwards, they shift from odd but harmless 2D characters – usually animals, occasionally very hairy boys – to become haunting CGI nightmare creatures. In 2008 Austria and Switzerland shared hosting duties, leading to these two little bastards being spawned. Their names are Trix and Flix.
Slavek & Slavko – Euro 2012 (Ukraine & Poland)
A similar effort followed when Poland and Ukraine joint-hosted Euro 2012. These two look largely similar to their predecessors, albeit without the sinister masks that allowed Trix and Flix to commit a litany of violent crimes without ever facing justice (probably). The 2012 follow-ups were called Slavek and Slavko. They were buff children with hair that sets a bad example, and smiles that belie an undeniable hunger for human flesh. Probably.
Super Victor – Euro 2016 (France)
Super Victor – the Euro 2016 effort – is the logical conclusion of 36 years of European Championship mascots. He is the misshapen result of 10 separate marketing committees, each larger and more on-message than the last, tasked with creating a character that met the brand values of a mid-range beer, a flat-screen TV, various airlines, and the authoritarian Azerbaijani government. He is modelled on a human, yet he is a soulless vessel, the embodiment of a creative worrying that "the client might push back on the angle of his smile", another wondering "does his arse reflect the core message" and their boss furiously barking at them to deliver the fucking project.
Super Victor's eyes are unfathomably huge; even when you look away, you can feel them boring into your very soul. His teeth are two large masses of bone. He wears a cape – whose fucking idea was that? And, as you may have learned earlier on, Super Victor is also the name for a big black dildo. Apparently the marketing team were too busy sculpting his inane backstory to check that one out.