‘Waru’ the knitted koala: crocheted mascot becomes Germany’s secret World Cup weapon

<span>Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/b_aPjoUzRDI_4Zt3uQcGZQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTc5OA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/21afb4a2b9ebbb409c1f8833922caee4″ src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/b_aPjoUzRDI_4Zt3uQcGZQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTc5OA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/21afb4a2b9ebbb409c1f8833922caee4″></img></p>
<p><figcaption><span>Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters</span></figcaption></p>
<p>As the German national team gathered before their opening match of the Women’s World Cup, a convincing win over Morocco in Melbourne, a curious knitted mascot sat on the grass in the middle of the huddle.</p>
<p>Lying on top of a shirt bearing the name and number of defender Carolin Simon, who was ruled out through injury on the eve of the tournament, sat a koala named “Waru”.</p>
<p><span>Related: </span>Sam Kerr declares herself fit for Matildas’ must-win World Cup clash against Canada</p>
<p>Crocheted by star forward Klara Buehl, the koala is named after an Australian Aboriginal word for fire. Waru is clad in a white jumper bearing the German flag, and the team are hoping it will be their lucky mascot on the road to World Cup triumph.</p>
<p>Waru has quickly become hot property as teammates take turns looking after the cuddly koala.</p>
<p>“Because [Buehl] did it, obviously it’s extra special,” teammate Laura Freigang said after the match. “It’s like a symbol for us, for the team, for the tournament in Australia.”</p>
<p>Buhl revealed herself as the team’s crochet captain in a video posted by Fifa. “It’s old fashioned, but relaxing,” said the 22-year-old. “I’d recommend it to anyone.”</p>
<p>Buehl explained that she turned to the hobby after coming down with Covid-19 midway through last year’s European Championships (where the Germans finished runners-up).</p>
<p>“That was hard to deal with,” she said. “I had so much energy that I wanted to share with the team, that I sat down to crochet 23 hearts, one for each player. So that was my contribution and it helped me mentally as well.”</p>
<p><span>Related: </span>Alexandra Popp is Germany’s fiercely competitive captain driven by Euros hurt | Karen Carney</p>
<p>As Buehl crocheted the koala, the team explored different names and ultimately settled on a significant First Nations word. Waru means fire in the Pintupi-Luritja language, part of the Western Desert language group which covers a large part of Northern Territory and Western Australia. It also describes the Milky Way in Kalkadoon (Kalkatungu), in what is now the Mount Isa region of Queensland.</p>
<p>“The team have looked into names that they use here in Australia, and what they mean, and in the end we decided on the name ‘Waru,’” Buehl said.</p>
<p>Waru has shot to fame on social media. One account has taken to posting photos of the koala in different settings: in one photo Alexandra Popp cuddles Waru as she naps on a flight; in another Waru aims for goal – using a golf ball.</p>
<p>With the help of their lucky mascot, the Germans are hoping to go deep in the Women’s World Cup and avenge their Euros final defeat last year. “I’ve noticed that he’s brought about lots of energy,” Buehl said. “He gives us a lot of joy and positive energy, and hopefully a lot of luck.”</p>
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