Wednesday, 27 August 2008

1981: Brazil-Spain on a bicycle

In November 1981, José Geraldo dreamed of a strange adventure: to travel from Brazil to Spain on a bicycle to be present at the Football Word Cup "Spain '82".

For many, he was only a crazy chap who wanted to appear in the printed press and on television; for the rest, a dreamer with a great desire to make his dream a reality. So, on the 6th of November 1981, the adventurer left Rio de Janeiro to travel to Seville, where the Canarinho Brazilian selection was playing and training in the first fase of the Cup. Road after road though Brasil, Uruguai, Argentina, Chile... and pretty soon the whole of South America would be left behind.

The Big Dream of being present at the Word Cup was becoming a reality. Without money, José Geraldo came across many problems at the various borders but, eventually, all were overcome. Of all these problems, the most anecdotal with a sweet political flavour: the local police would not allow him to enter the United Kingdom because he had been in Argentina, at that time at war with the UK over the disputed ownership of the Falklands. After many hours, and thanks to the help of latino-american journalists in London, he was able to have his passport stamped.

Having overcome the impasse, and already on the Old Continent, he steered his bike towards the Cervantes' homeland. Six and a half months after having left Brazil, and under the gaze of hundreds of incredulous journalists, José Geraldo arrived two minutes before the Brazilian selection in front of the hotel "Parador de Carmona", their home away from home in Seville. Between tears and happy smiles, the cyclist would welcome each one of the members of the selection, who also were thrilled to receive such an unscheduled welcome. Brazil's classification for the next phase went smoothly. While all the other supporters were travelling to Barcelona by air, José Geraldo was putting all his illusions on a backpack riding on his bicycle to follow the selection.

Six days later, Las Ramblas, one of the main thoroughfares in Barcelona, received with Samba rhythms the cyclist who was already known as "Zé do Pedal" (Pedal Joe). All was just perfection until, one fateful afternoon, Brazil fell to it's knees in front of Italy, saying goodbye to the dream of winning four championships in a row.

But, if the Brazilian players were returning home bowing their heads, Pedal Joe, to the contrary, on the transatlantic liner that was taking him back to Rio de Janeiro, was already dreaming of a longer, crazier and more exciting trip... a bicycle World Tour! The arrival at his native city, Viçosa (in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil) was climactic, with hundreds filling the streets to welcome the fellow countryman. No one was calling him crazy anymore...

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