Football influencer Luva named to Brazil squad in viral gag

Brazil coach Tite made a surprise early announcement for his World Cup squad Sunday, naming football influencer and internet sensation Luva to his team, in a gag video that went viral on social media.

Tite, who is due to announce his squad Monday -- a task he recently admitted is making him lose sleep -- lightened the mood with a video naming the 20-year-old Brazilian funnyman "the first member of the World Cup team."

"The rule is we have to select 27 players," the veteran coach says in the 30-second video posted on Luva's social media accounts, which have more than 40 million followers.

"Now we only have 26 spots, because one has just been named: Luva de Pedreiro," he says with a grin, handing him the iconic yellow jersey of the five-time champions and 2022 favorites.

The self-described "best football influencer in the world" reacts with one of his trademark over-the-top celebrations.

Luva, whose real name is Iran Ferreira -- his nickname refers to his ever-present black gloves, or "luvas" -- grew up in poverty in the northeastern state of Bahia, but shot to fame and fortune with little but a die-hard love of football, outsized personality and a cellphone.

His videos have won him superstar fans including football's Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Ronaldinho.

Apparently overwhelmed by sudden celebrity, Luva announced in September he was taking a break from social media.

But he has since returned with a flood of posts, commercials for the likes of McDonald's and a trip to hobnob with football royalty at the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris last month.

jhb/des