Mexican supporter Javier Amador was all set to join his mates on an epic Russian World Cup adventure before crying off at the last minute.
Disappointed, his friends decided that Javier would accompany them in Russia after all — in lifesize cardboard cutout form at any rate.
And to make him pay for remaining back in Mexico, his friends Daniel, Matthew and Roberto have the inanimate Javier decked out in a T-shirt with the caption: “My girlfriend wouldn’t let me come.”
“He never really told us why he didn’t come. Then we said that somehow he had to pay for what he did,” smiled Matthew.
The bearded lookalike has become a viral hit on social media, with fans and even police officers queuing up to take selfies — as has the bus he and the others are travelling in.
“La Bendicion” (the Benediction), an ex-school bus kitted out in full colourful Mexican splendour, was shipped over to Germany and with Javier has caused a stir in Saint Petersburg, Moscow and Rostov-on-Don.
They take the replica Javier wherever they go, to bars, to restaurants, even to the toilet.
“He’s been everywhere,” says Daniel, one of the nine passengers on board the Benediction, decked out with Mexican boxing gloves, garlands, paintings of children playing football and guitars. The hooter plays “La Cucaracha”.
“We took out all the seats and with friends transformed it and painted it with traditional Mexican elements to show the world Mexican culture,” explained Roberto.
“In the bars, to tourist sites, he’s drunk beer. Wherever we are people come up to us asking for a photo, and he always receives a warm welcome.”
Given all the publicity surrounding their trip, Matthew believes they will soon be joined by Javier himself.
“Yep, I think he’ll come, what with all the pressure that he’s under.”