- Marivaldo walks 60 kilometres to every Sport home game
- It won the 48-year-old the FIFA Fan Award
- The Brazilian lost it upon hearing his name
“I’d prepared myself all week to stay calm, but suddenly I heard my name announced as one of the finalists – Marivaldo at the FIFA Awards – and I lost it,” an ecstatic Marivaldo Francisco da Silva told FIFA.com shortly after winning the FIFA Fan Award. “I wanted to jump, scream, go wild! I could hear people yelling at me to stay calm.
“I was still getting myself together when they announced me as the winner, so I didn’t hear it. But then [the Sport staff] were telling me I’d won and I looked back at the computer and saw Ruud Gullit saying my name. My name!
“I lost it again. I was blown away with emotion. I burst out crying. I was so, so happy. Thank God, thank God. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.
“I still can’t believe it. Am I dreaming? I keep thinking I am going to wake up. Please tell me this is all true?”
After reassuring Marivaldo that he’s been crowned at The Best FIFA Football Awards™, we enquired how his love of sport, and marathoning to their matches, begun.
“I’ve been Sport ever since my mother gave birth to me,” he said. “I’ve always gone to the games. I used to live in Olinda and walk to the game from there, but it only took three hours.
“I live with my mother, she’s my everything. Twelve years ago she said her dream was to live out her life in Pombos, so off we went.
“I still went to all the games. I got a bus or sometimes got a lift. But in 2016 I lost my job. We’re very poor, I didn’t have the money for bus fares.
“My life is my mother and Sport Club do Recife. So I prayed to God. I came away thinking, ‘You’re healthy, you have two legs, the right frame of mind.'
“So at the start of 2017 I started walking to games. I have a drawstring bag. I take a raincoat for the rain, a cap for the sun. I take water and a couple of biscuits. It’s 60 kilometres. It takes me about ten-and-a-half hours.
“I’ve never had the money for match tickets, but God has always looked out for me and I have never missed a single match. There’s always been someone offering to buy me a ticket, a guardian angel. I don’t have words for people’s generosity.”
Marivaldo may have overcome the getting there and getting a ticket hurdles, but how does he get home?
“Sometimes people offer me a lift home, but most of the time I walk,” he explained. “I enjoy the walk a lot more when we've won though (laughs).
“Because it’s dark I have to wait until daylight. I go to a 24-hour supermarket not far from the stadium. There’s a bench I can rest on and I pass the time talking to the employees, who’ve become my friends, and helping them sort the trolleys, which passes the time quicker.
“Last year Globo did a feature on me. More and more people began to recognise me and offer me a lift home. Sport would give me tickets to matches. And since my nomination for the FIFA Fan Award, things have been crazy.
“Everyone recognises me, everyone wants to take photos. People started offering me things – trainers, equipment, a bicycle. I’m so, so grateful, but I didn’t do it for any of that or fame. I did it purely because I love Sport.”
Marivaldo, who is one of the most grateful people you could ever meet, has remained positive throughout a life that has not been without its problems.
“Let me tell you something: I’ve always been happy. When I was a child I was always hungry, but I was always happy.
“People may look at my life and think, ‘You are poor, you have nothing, you haven’t done this or that, you must be unhappy.’ But I’m a simple person and I’ve always been happy.
“But when I got the nomination for this award, the feeling of happiness it gave me was indescribable. That for me was everything. It was the happiest day of my life. I didn’t think I had a hope of winning, but just to be nominated was an incredible feeling.”
Marivaldo also had to deal with the feeling of nerves. Last week he was informed that the faces of three finalists for the FIFA Fan Award may appear on FIFA’s live stream.
“I panicked,” the Pernumbucano admitted. “Sport were incredible with me. They put me up in a hotel in Recife, organised for me to watch the ceremony at the club, got me a suit, a haircut. Everyone at the club has treated me so well.
“But I was nervous about appearing on the live show. All week I was telling myself to keep it together, to not embarrass myself, but when I heard my name I couldn’t control myself. And then when I saw Ruud Gullit – Ruud Gullit – saying 'Marivaldo', I realised I'd won and was really lost it.
I didn't think I would ever have a day as happy as when I got nominated for the award, but today was ten times better. I’m so, so grateful. I can’t believe this has happened to a person like me.”