By Richard Martin
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – While football teams often use psychologists or motivational speakers to inspire players, Copa America finalists Peru are spurred on by a resident magician.
Comedian Ernesto Carpio, a failed amateur footballer who is better known as El Mago Plomo, was first acquainted with the Peru team when he gave them a magic show before their 2015 Copa America campaign.
He proved to be a lucky charm. Unfancied Peru finished third in the tournament and Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca decided to invite him along to every game since to entertain the players during down time.
Peru have continued to dazzle opponents with El Mago on board, qualifying for the 2018 World Cup after a 36-year absence and now reaching a first Copa America final since 1975, where they will play hosts Brazil at the Maracana on Sunday.
Winger Christian Cueva has taken Carpio’s methods so much to heart that he played in the semi-final clash with Chile with the eight of diamonds stuffed into his right sock.
Peru pulled off a stunning 3-0 win over the double Copa holders, four days after producing another shock by knocking out 15-times champions Uruguay.
“I believe superstition is part of football’s folklore,” Carpio told Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
“The idea is to give off good energy and good vibes. Life is like this, when there is a good mood things flow, and I think that’s what the players feel with me.”
Peru could certainly do with Carpio’s magic touch in the final. When the two sides met earlier in the tournament, Brazil won 5-0.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Clare Lovell)