By Andrew Downie
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A Brazilian soccer club has won fans and commercial success with a new strip featuring the face of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.
Madureira, a third division team from Rio de Janeiro's gritty north side, put Che's famously bearded face on their seven-a-side shirts to commemorate a tour of the island they made 50 years ago.
The goalkeeper's jersey is designed exactly like the Cuban flag.
The new maroon outfield designs, featuring the shadow of the revolutionary's image, have not yet been used in an official match, but they are already a huge hit with fans.
Sales have rocketed from the usual 10 a month to more than 3000 in the weeks since it was launched.
"The factory can't keep up with demand," Madureira's president Elias Duba told Reuters.
"It's taken on a whole life of its own.
"I wasn't going to have the big team use them, but all the attention has convinced me otherwise."
The club chose to honor Che, the Argentine-born revolutionary who helped Fidel Castro to power in Cuba in 1959, after playing five games there in 1963. Che met the players at their hotel in Havana and was at the last game of their unbeaten tour, Duba said.
Madureira claims to have undertaken the longest overseas tour of all Brazilian clubs. In the 1950s and 1960s, Brazilian sides, including Pele's Santos and Garrincha's Botafogo, would regularly spend months abroad playing money-spinning friendlies.
In 1963 Madureira spent 144 days in countries as far flung as Japan and the United States, playing 36 games, and winning 23 of them.
The club is now talking to Cuban authorities in the hope it can return there for a pre-season tour in 2014. With their Che shirts.
"It's really beautiful, one of the nicest shirts I've seen in a long time," said goalkeeper Robertinho. "Even fans of other teams want to buy it."