He’s a fluffy young leopard with green hair and a wide smile.
“One thing is for sure, Zakumi will be first on the dancefloor and last off it at the biggest party in the world,” Fifa says on its website. “He symbolizes South Africa and the rest of the African continent through his self-confidence, pride, hospitality, social skills and warm-heartedness.”
The name “Zakumi” is a composition of “ZA” (South Africa’s international country code) and “kumi”, a ki-Swahili word that means 10. Since South Africa aims to make 2010 a truly African World Cup, the LOC (Local Organising Committee) decided to use a word from a language widely spoken across the continent.
Another detail worth noting is that Zakumi was born on 16 June 1994, a day and a year of great significance in South Africa.
The 16th of June 1976 saw the beginning of the Soweto youth uprising, when school children took to the streets to protest against apartheid, many of them cut down by police gunfire.
And 1994 was the year that South Africans of all races cast their votes for the first time to elect a new post-apartheid democratic government.
“The big party is in 2010, when Zakumi turns 16, but we will also have had 16 years of democracy then,” says LOC chief executive Danny Jordaan said. Zakumi is therefore “the ambassador for all our hopes, dreams and aspirations in South Africa.”