COLOGNE, Germany - A Premiership pre-match experience wouldn’t be complete without a man dressed up in a colourful, larger-than-life costume resembling anything from a lion to a dinosaur. But at Germany’s FC Köln, the mascot features four legs and two horns, and there isn’t a costume in sight.
Hennes VIII is FC Köln’s real-life goat, and for many of the club’s fans the most important part of the football team.
“Hennes brings us luck,” says one fan, interviewed for a film that forms part of Ford’s Fascinating World of Football. “He’s part of the tradition here. He’s a very cute goat and we all love him.”
A trip to the club shop immediately reveals just how long and illustrious that tradition is - after all, FC Köln are known as ‘the Billy Goats’ and Hennes features on the club badge.
The first Hennes now has pride of place at the club shop as a mounted head on the wall next to a plaque explaining his history.
Hennes VII, meanwhile, lives just down the road from the stadium at a stable in Cologne - the address is top secret given that he’s such a prized possession for the club.
On match days he is driven to the stadium and then paraded in front of the fans prior to the game wearing the team’s colours.
So does Hennes have any idea what’s going on? His keeper seems to think so, saying the goat tends to go to the toilet more often on the day of a home fixture. No doubt it’s the nerves.
Hennes is named after Hennes Weisweiler, player-coach of FC Köln from 1948-52. He is one of the most successful German coaches of all time, returning to the club as manager in 1976 and winning the league championship two years later.
But rather than named out of honour for the coach’s successes on the pitch, rumour has it that the first goat – originally a gift from a circus ringmaster in the 1950s – actually urinated on Weisweiler’s shirt, and that’s how he got his name.
Whatever the truth, no one is in any doubt that FC Köln couldn’t do without this unique and famous mascot.