Saturday 22 October 2016, 09:26

Tension and delight as Zabivaka introduced to the world

Everyone can feel the nerves sometimes. The wolf Zabivaka™ got so worried moments before he was named the Official Mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, that he accidentally wandered into a completely different studio at Russia’s Channel One - though he was offered to read out the night’s news.

But the Mascot Candidates - a wolf, tiger and cat – were not the only ones who felt agitated before the Evening Urgant programme,* *where the symbol of the FIFA World Cup™ – and the nation as a whole – was going to be unveiled. Ekaterina Bocharova from Tomsk Oblast, Valeriya Taburenko from Obninsk near Moscow and Sofia Podlesnykh from Novgorod Oblast, who designed these well-loved characters, had even more thrill. They can all be extremely proud of their work, irrespective of the final result.

Ironical Evening Urgant Presenter Ivan Urgant is adept at getting celebrity guests to open up on his show, and the three students handled his questions admirably. Only one question - “Which team will you be supporting at the World Cup?” - caught them off guard. Valeriya, who graduated from Saint Petersburg University of Technology and Design, started talking about her beloved Zenit, while Sofia declared she will be cheering for everyone.

“Actually, I wasn't that nervous,” revealed wolf designer Ekaterina, who barely could hold back her tears after the show. “You could say it's normal for me now, giving interviews. It's been an amazing experience, but I'd like to think it hasn't changed me that much, besides the fact I've become more assured in my communication skills.”

The finalists of the campaign to design the FIFA World Cup mascot were far from the only guests on Friday's episode of Evening Urgant. The girls were joined by Russia 2018 ambassadors Yana Churikova and Lyasan Utiasheva, and Host City Ambassador for Rostov-on-Don Viktoriya Lopyreva who provided support to the three Mascot candidates during the show. LOC Chairman Vitaly Mutko and CEO Alexey Sorokin were additionally on hand to help with the unveiling of the winning design and the Mascot name’s announcement.

Also appearing on the programme was someone who has first-hand experience of winning a FIFA World Cup, as well as seeing the tournament staged in his own country. Legendary Brazilian Ronaldo was cautious while predicting the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts' performance in the future tournament: "You know, FIFA World Cup is very unpredictable". But he was happy to share his memories on Zabivaka’s predecessor Fuleco™ success in Brazil.

Zabivaka™ is yet to follow the long Fuleco’s road, but he definitely has his fans already.