Sport

Brazilian football fan travels 18,000 miles to watch Blyth Spartans

Coining a metaphor that would last the ages, notorious womaniser Paul Newman once asked why he would go out for hamburgers when he had steak at home.

And though you might have to replace ‘hamburgers’ with ‘English non-league football played in drizzly conditions' and ‘steak’ with ‘futsal played on the beach’, it’s a metaphor well worth remembering for this scarcely believable story.

In news that would put any bleary-eyed away-day fan to shame, one Brazilian boy named Lucas Martins has swapped samba football for grassroots football, making an 18,000 mile pilgrimage to watch his favourite football team play on a bleak night in Northern England.

So who did he venture so far to see: Newcastle? Manchester United? Liverpool? 

BLYTH SPARTANS.

Yes, having taken five flights and two coach rides to get to Northumberland from the home of samba football, the mathematics student made it in time to watch his beloved side take on Salford in front of 1,4000 spectators at a windswept Croft Park.

Luckily for young Martins, who first came to love Spartans after picking them out at random on Football Manager as a 13-year-old, they went on to beat Salford 2-1, moving five points clear at the summit of the Evo-Stik Premier League.

Naturally they weren't the only ones who had been flying high of late: after a trip to Berlin for a holiday with family, the Sao Paulo native then took a flight from London to Germany, then a plane to Edinburgh, before hopping on a coach to Newcastle.

Epitomising the heart and soul of the grassroots game, upon hearing of his plans Spartan officials then drove their most exotic fan on the last leg to the stadium where he received a hero’s welcome from the chairman, the manager and the players, who even gave him a Blyth home shirt to boot.

"It was great," he said. "The people at Blyth treated me so well, it is a shame I am quite shy and could not show how grateful I was for everything they have done for me.

"I met just about everyone in there, from the regular supporters to the groundsman, to the players and the chairman. One of the most astounding things I noticed was how much work is actually put into running a non-league team. It is amazing what everyone does.

"It was great meeting the players - especially [captain] Robert Dale, who is one of my football heroes. The atmosphere was incredible. I did not know 1,432 people could be so loud! Every other game I'd been to in my life was a big game, so I had never seen football that close and that intimate.

"I first became interested in Blyth Spartans around 2008 or 2009, while playing Football Manager," he added. I had played the game ever since I was a little kid with my older cousin, but had always picked my hometown club, or Manchester United. I decided to pick a team from the very lowest league, and the name 'Spartans' really appealed."

For at least one fan on that drizzly evening, it really was like watching Brazil.

[Via The Mirror]