His name is Carlos Alberto de Valentim, from São Paulo. In Brazil he’s better known as Nenê and with his Volkswagen Transporter (better known in Brazil as Kombi) he has followed his team around the world during four different World Cups.
Borderless Love for Football
“Of the eight cups that I have visited, I have driven this van to four of them. The first time was when I left Brazil and went to Mexico in 1986, and from Mexico, after the World Cup, I drove on to the USA and Canada. I visited 17 American countries in 1986. After that, I went to the 1994 World Cup with my current Kombi, which is CUP0094, that’s alluding to the 1994 World Cup. I’d been travelling for 9 months, more than 50 thousand kilometers. I lived in the car,” he recalled.
Nenê also told Sputnik how he prepared for his first overseas trip. “When Brazil won the 1994 World Cup, it was already automatically qualified for the 1998 World Cup. What I did: I planned to go to France with this same car in 1998. From Brazil I went on the KLM cargo-passenger flight, my car was with me. I got to Amsterdam and drove around most of Europe, then I went to Asia, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, I’d travelled through the Middle East, and I returned to Greece again,” he said.
Nenê also had the opportunity to get to know Finland and reach the Arctic Circle. For now, Australia is in fact the only continent the Brazilian hasn’t yet covered.
“This car knows all of the Americas… except for the islands and three Guianas [French Guyana, Guyana and Surinam] because there was no road there,” he added.
In fact, the Kombi ended up being one of the most symbolic elements of the hippy era of the 60s and 70s. It was extremely popular in Brazil and was manufactured between 1957 and 2013.
When they stopped manufacturing, Volkswagen chose 20 people who had stories with a Kombi; I was one of them,” he explained. In a video he shared with Sputnik, you can see how he received a thank you from the company – a cap signed by Pelê, the most precious gift for him.
“It's a very simple car, it’s good both in the snowy regions, like the Arctic Circle, and in the USA’s California desert… there’re no problems,” the Brazilian said.
Nenê confessed that he had dreamed of seeing Russia long before the current World Cup. He even had a plan for it – but the plan failed due to documentation problems. At the time, the Brazilian needed a visa to travel through Russia.
Now, all these bureaucratic hurdles won’t ruin the trip, as there’s a visa-free regime. However, this time his Kombi didn’t come to Russia for another reason.
“In Brazil I was trying to get sponsorship for my air freight, which would be in about the $7,000 range. When a friend of mine from Lufthansa got this sponsorship, it turned out that I was wasting time… In the week I was going to board my car, there was a road strike. On May 21, I called the company that advises me on documents and they told me that it was impossible, there was a strike, trucks weren’t getting in or out,” Nenê said.
Thus, Nene was divided between two possible scenarios, but decided not to take a risk.
“Then I had two options: either I hope the 11-day strike would end and miss most of the World Cup, or I get on a plane and I go as a regular fan,” he said.
So he chose the second option. However, Nenê isn’t desperate – he already has a plan that will allow him to live out his dream.
“I'm going to leave this project till the Japan Olympics [in 2020], if I go there, I'll go through Russia” — he promised.
REUTERS / Vasily FedosenkoImpressions of the 2018 World Cup
Even without his faithful companion vehicle, Nenê arrived in Russia. And he seems to be enjoying it, all the more so because for a long time he’d been curious about the country.
“In São Paulo there’s a Russian Center. I wanted to go there to learn that Katyusha song, but I didn’t have time. I wonder if by the end of the World Cup I’ll learn that song,” – said Nenê, who may be 75 years old, but is certainly young at heart.
Nenê is more than pleased with the security level: “We feel very safe here, especially compared to Brazil. As for security here in Russia, we're really impressed. It's a place where you can leave your phone anywhere without any worries… In Brazil we have to be far more careful,” he said.
“And one more thing: 99.9% are wonderful people, pleasant and honest,” the Brazilian added.
The food – another thing that makes any trip complete – also pleased Nenê. “I ate a steak here yesterday. Here I ate meat, fried potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce and tomatoes, so it's a lot like Brazilian food, it’s healthy,” Nenê said.