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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup diary: Neymar joins Messi and Ronaldo in Kazan mural club

World Cup diary: Neymar joins Messi and Ronaldo in Kazan mural club

July 05, 2018 16:29 IST

Neymar

IMAGE: Mural of Brazil's Neymar. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

It has been a busy World Cup for Kazan's mural artists and in the early hours of Thursday morning they were back at work again painting the face of Neymar on a wall behind the Brazil team hotel.

The Brazil forward, in Kazan for Friday's quarter-final against Belgium, is the third footballer to receive the honour with Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina's Lionel Messi having already been immortalised on the city walls.

While the images of Ronaldo and Messi were cheek-by-jowl near the Ramada Hotel along with a cheeky message challenging the Argentine to match his rival's goal tally in Brazil, Neymar has his own spot near the other official team hotel, the Mirage.

 

The three-storey portrait of Ronaldo was painted to welcome the five-times World Player of the Year when Portugal played in the capital of Tatarstan in the 2017 Confederations Cup.

To the embarrassment of city officials, it turned out that Argentina would be staying at the same hotel ahead of Saturday's World Cup last 16 clash against France with Messi potentially being able to see the Ronaldo mural from his room.

To avoid to appear to be taking sides in the eternal debate over which of the Spain-based forwards is the world's best player, the city commissioned the smaller side profile of Messi, also a five-times World Player of the Year.

With Ronaldo and Messi having already departed the tournament after losses in the round of 16, the path is clear for Neymar to challenge the stranglehold the pair have had on such discussions over the last decade.

While the Kazan murals have been popular with picture-snapping fans, one in Moscow proved more controversial when it emerged that the man tasked with decorating the city for the World Cup had commissioned a 12-storey portrait of his wife.

Hotdog-munching trio in Russian garb unlikely stars of World Cup

It was the eleventh minute of extra time in Russia's tense victory over Spain when the unlikely stars of the show emerged: three Russia fans clad in traditional female headgear shown on national TV snacking on hotdogs in the stands.

The spectacle of the trio who were picked out by television cameras eating serenely as the country's nerves frayed during the match against Spain propelled them to national fame.

The fans, two men and a woman, have become a viral Internet sensation and tributes have also spread offline thanks to artists such as Aleks Melentyev - who has depicted them in a graffiti mural on the side of a garage in south-east Moscow.

"They are so Russian! They had Spain flags on their cheeks but it was so obvious they were Russians, very colourful people. I liked them and I immediately decided to paint them," said the 35-year-old from the Siberian city of Omsk.

The mural shows them wearing their kokoshniki, a traditional Russian headdress usually sported by women and girls.

Melentyev praised the TV cameraman who picked them out of the crowd on Sunday. "He had 10 seconds on them, but I spent two hours and (my work) is packed with emotions and positive feelings," he told Reuters standing in front of the mural.

Expectations ahead of the World Cup were very low in Russia as the national team had endured months of bad form. But the country is now spellbound as their team has defied expectations, cruising to the quarter finals.

On Sunday, the hosts drew 1-1 with Spain, but clinched the match on penalties, winning a shootout 4-3.

"I hope that with these kinds of fans, we will win and go further," Melentyev added.

Russia plays Croatia in the quarter final on Saturday.

Source:
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