World Cup 2014 diary: Not another dreadful mascot? It's time to roll up into a ball and hide

 

Armadillo! World Cup 2014 will be a not-before-time welcome back into the limelight for a creature all but abandoned in popular culture since Harry Enfield's seminal 1990s advert for Dime bars.

Fuleco, another dreadful World Cup mascot, is based on the rare, three-banded variety. Visitor numbers to Rio Zoo have tripled since the cute creature was named World Cup mascot. Known – now – as the "football armadillo" due to their ability to roll up into the shape of a football, it is hoped the tournament's attention might address their fate: only found in Brazil, they were thought to be extinct until 1990.

Messi put his house in order

Argentina forward Lionel Messi, the world's highest-paid footballer, has scrapped plans to rent a mansion for his family outside Belo Horizonte for the duration of the World Cup because it is too expensive.

At Barcelona Messi earns £16m a year but he and his staff thought the £40,000 rent for a month-long stay was too expensive for a mansion with seven suites, 13 bathrooms and 86,000 square feet of land next to a lagoon. Messi decided instead to rent a house in Rio.

Thais try to make World Cup a free-for-all

Who says the World Cup can't spread joy and happiness? Certainly not Thailand's military junta, who, determined not to be killjoys, promised to "return happiness to the people" after last month's coup by asking officials to find a way to allow the country's soccer fans to watch the tournament for free. An official for the main broadcaster said the military had contacted the agency's chairman and asked him to arrange for all matches to be broadcast on free-to-air channels.

Skeleton aiming to score where Ross failed

Humans like Diana Ross are, as we know, fallible, so the job of kicking a ceremonial penalty to open the tournament will not be left to chance this year. Even the armadillo mascot will not be the most attention-stealing exoskeleton in town come the opening ceremony, when a robotic skeleton is expected to assist a paraplegic teen in taking the first kick of the tournament.

Twitter.com/@paul_bignell

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