World Cup Diary Day 23: Pope Francis, Spiderman and Rio’s cast of characters

Gary Meenaghan files from Copacabana, where the industrious are going to creative lengths to bank off World Cup tourism.

A Diego Maradona lookalike gets his face painted along the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro during the 2014 World Cup on July 1, 2014. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
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RIO DE JANEIRO // Copacabana is mostly known for its beach. Yet it should also have a reputation for encouraging creative ­panhandling.

Yesterday, with Brazil’s match with Colombia taking place 2,500 kilometres up the coast in Fortaleza, all manner of entrepreneurs flocked to the famous beachfront trying to earn a buck before kick off.

First, there was a man dressed as the leader of the Catholic church. The majority of travelling Argentina fans have already departed (they hope, temporarily) for Brasilia, where their country face Belgium on Saturday in the quarter-finals, but the Pope remains in Rio. Under the giant Christ the Redeemer statue, a Pope Francis lookalike posed for photos with sun-scorched tourists and Brazilian locals.

Farther along the beachfront were a pair of Spidermen. Close enough to eye each other up competitively, but evidently far enough apart to be out of reach of their web shooters. One, dressed in the traditional red and blue suit (complete with full headgear), was doing impressive tricks with a football; the other, looking a little less appealing, simply stood stationary, dressed in a custom-made yellow-and-green “Spidey” suit.

Indigenous (and possibly disingenuous) tribesmen posed with spears and smeared face paint and bags made of animal skins, while a man dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow offered to cut your throat with a machete for a small fee.

A few days earlier, a Colombian woman had been seen challenging anybody to do more keepie-ups than her. She had arrived in Brazil with no hostel, no food and no transport – but with a football and clearly enough skill to win more contests than she lost. She was yesterday spotted in Fortaleza, having somehow afforded the 2,500km trip up the coast.

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