SAO PAULO – With the 2014 World Cup quickly approaching, FIFA has announced the tournament's mascot -- an endangered Brazilian armadillo.
The yet to-be-named armadillo was revealed by former Brazil soccer star Ronaldo on television Sunday.
FIFA said Brazilians will have until mid-November to choose the name from three choices — Amijubi, Fuleco and Zuzeco.
"I'm delighted to welcome such an important member to the 2014 team," Ronaldo said. "The mascot will play a key ambassadorial role in the next two years. I'm sure he will inspire many young football fans in Brazil and all over the world with the great passion which he has for the sport and for his country."
The three-banded armadillo, which is in danger of extinction, rolls up into the shape of a ball when threatened and is commonly found in northeastern Brazil.
The mascot carries the colors of the Brazilian flag. It is yellow, with green shorts and a blue shell and tail. It is dressed in a white shirt with the words "Brazil 2014" written on it.
"The fact that the three-banded armadillo is a vulnerable species is very fitting," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said in a statement. "One of the key objectives through the 2014 FIFA World Cup is to use the event as a platform to communicate the importance of the environment and ecology."
FIFA said Amijubi is a "representation of friendliness and joy," while Fuleco and Zuzeco are linked to an "ecological message."
Soccer's governing body said the three options were picked "after a vote by a high-profile judging committee" in Brazil, including former Ronaldo teammate Bebeto.
The mascot of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a leopard, an animal commonly found in that country. It was yellow and green — the South African colors — and was called Zakumi. In 2006 in Germany, the mascot was a lion called Goleo.
The first time a mascot was introduced at the World Cup was in 1966 in England — a lion dressed in the Union Jack flag and named Willie.
Other World Cup mascots included a boy called Juanito in Mexico in 1970, an orange named Naranjito in Spain in 1982, a dog called Striker in the United States in 1994 and a rooster named Footix in France in 1998.
FIFA also recently announced that the World Cup ball will be called "Brazuca," an informal word often used to describe national pride. Adidas, the official World Cup ball supplier, said Brazilians voted on the name that "symbolizes emotion, pride and goodwill to all," mirroring Brazil's "approach to football."
"Brazuca" also is often used as the nickname given to Brazilians living outside the country, including the hundreds of soccer players playing abroad.
Brazil is hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.