As I write this, exactly one year ago my wife, children and I embarked on a new adventure to live a life abroad in my wife’s native homeland, Brazil. We were due to fly out on the Monday morning (24th October) and I had only just come out of hospital the previous Friday after a four-day stretch due to an unexpected bout of Diabetic Ketoacidosis !!!
As I lay in hospital I remember being really worried and I kept asking the extremely caring nurses when they would be able to let me go home. I wasn’t worried about preparing for a new life abroad or missing the flight. I was more concerned about making the game that Sunday, the last one I would attend for the foreseeable future, just a small one though, at home against Chelsea.
We all know the result, but what a send off I had. I wasn’t feeling 100% but I had a couple of beers after the game, went off to Heathrow, met the family and got the flight to sunny Brazil the next morning. I remember wearing my QPR top through customs accompanied with lots of jeers from the Chelsea supporting workers and lot of cheers from fellow R’s. All in good jest I should add.
To be honest that game could have been against anyone and I would still have made it. After supporting the R’s from boyhood in Northampton and having a season ticket from when I moved to London in ’93, no way was I going to miss my last opportunity to see the R’s for a while. This brings me to the point of this piece and one that Paul kindly asked me to write, what it is like moving away, not from friends and family and to a new culture, but away from a nearly religious routine of watching QPR each week ?
The first thing to decide was what to do with my season ticket ? Although I watched the R’s from a young age and wept as a 7-year-old watching the FA Cup on TV in ’82 and cried as an 11-year-old at my first trip to Wembley in ’86, with my season ticket I have sat through the good times with Sir Les then endured the dross that followed. I enjoyed the highs of Sheffield Wednesday away and the lows of Cardiff and Vauxhall Motors and then finally the great moment when the pub erupted, learning of our fate prior to the Leeds game.
Easy decision: keep it, I never knew when I might be coming back, things might not work out, I also want to watch Rangers when I visit the UK and whilst we are in the Premier League I can pass it on to friends and fellow R’s at cost price or near. If I only lose a few quid over the season for the sake of keeping the seat, I guess it’s worth it.
Let’s be honest, it could be worse, I have moved to a country that lives, breathes and eats football. Watching games, I knew would not be a problem. With most of the Premier League games aired on TV here and the amount of streams available these days, as yet I don’t think I have missed a single game that QPR have played since arriving in Brazil. If we were still in the Championship it would be a bit of a struggle, but even then they show the same games aired on British TV from that league. So I guess TV wise, my timing could not have been better !
So, I’ve still got my season ticket, I still get to watch all the games, what is there to miss then ? Yep, you’ve guessed it; the whole magic of the match day experience. Sometimes I even think that this is as important to me if not more than as the game itself.
I live in the North East of Brazil in a city called Natal. The largest supported local team are called ABC (must be something about me and three letter teams) and they are currently in Serie B. I have been to see them a couple of times, but without the history, passion, network of friends I have built up over the years, you simply cannot re-create that Saturday feeling I had in West London, no matter how hot it is !
In the end I had moved to Cambridgeshire, so I would wake up early, normally hung over, manage a bit of fruit in the car, to get dropped at the station, get the 10.26am from Ely and try to make the pub in Shepherd’s Bush for 12 o’clock. You know the rest: meet the same friends, get introduced to new ones, talk up expectations, build up the excitement and then get to the game full of anticipation. Only with a three-up deficit with 5 minutes to go would the nerves nearly leave me.
Of course, I must also mention the whole atmosphere we can sometimes create at Loftus Road, when the place rocks, it really bloody rocks. Then it’s back to the Defectors or wherever, dissect, discuss, drink, discuss, meet new people, drink, look at watch – whoops, missed the last train, where did that day go ?
As I said, you know the routine and it may be the same for other clubs, but all I know is that my day in the company of QPR, familiar faces, laughs and tears is absolutely fantastic and that is truly what I miss the most about football in the UK whilst living in Brazil. Away days also have a place in my heart, but if I am honest I only went to two or three per season after my daughter’s birth.
QPR are not really acknowledged here in Brazil. Obviously the signing of our new keeper put us on the map a bit. Otherwise we are the team that nearly beat Man City. As you would expect there are the normal clan of Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal shirt wearing locals. Although bizarrely enough, about two months after I moved to Natal I did spot a chap walking down the street wearing last early season’s green and white hoops top without the sponsor. I nearly crashed the car. I stopped, told him his top was from the team that I supported and asked him in my best Portuguese why he was wearing it ? He said that he found it cheap on the internet and liked it. Make of that what you will ?
As for my current thoughts, I really do not know. I am not sure a new manager is the answer and I have seen, albeit on TV, some glimpses of magic. I guess it just needs to all come together in more than one or two games before it is too late. My biggest concern right now is making my business work here in Brazil so I can afford to come back before the end of the season and spend one of those glorious days in Shepherd’s Bush, no matter what the result !
Obrigado e vamos QPR