The Best FIFA Football Awards
The solitary fan who became an inspiration
21 Sep 2018
- The only away supporter who travelled to the game
- Described by Chilean star Arturo Vidal as "a real fan"
- Will he win The FIFA Fan Award for 2018?
Nunca jugarás sólo (You'll never play alone) is the promise that Sebastian Carrera has emblazoned on the flag of his beloved Club de Deportes Puerto Montt. And judging by what he did late last year, you would have to say he is man of his word.
On Sunday 22 October 2017, Carrera was the only Albiverde fan who travelled the 1,500 kilometres that separate Puerto Montt from Coquimbo to cheer on his team in a Chilean second division fixture. And it was precisely that wonderful display of loyalty that earned him a nomination for The FIFA Fan Award for 2018.
"It's amazing everything that has happened since then," Carrera told FIFA.com. “And to think that I almost didn’t go," added the unassuming 34-year-old.
Though a rather surprising revelation, it is as good a place as anywhere to start the story.
"The Monday before the game I told my wife, who I met through football eight years ago, that I probably wouldn’t go because of a family celebration we’d planned at home. But when I found out on the Friday afternoon that none of my friends were travelling, I said to myself: ‘I can’t miss it’."
As ever, getting time off was not a problem, with Sebastian having organised his hours with the retail sales company he works for with the Puerto Montt fixture in mind. With that sorted, his epic journey could begin.
"Driving was out of the question and my budget doesn’t permit flying, so on Friday I boarded my first bus and headed to Santiago. There I rested up for a few hours before departing that night for Coquimbo, where I got in around 5am Sunday morning."
Stats from his trip
- 3000: the total number of kilometres he travelled that weekend
- 40: the approximate number of hours he spent on board buses
- 5000: the price in Chilean pesos (approximately USD $8) he paid for his match ticket
Wearing the club’s traditional white and green jersey and just a light jacket, he began to feel conspicuous among the gathering supporters of Coquimbo Unido. "They’re a very fanatical bunch so, to avoid any problems, I walked some seven kilometres along the coastal avenue to La Serena, which is less of a footballing city."
After taking a nap on the beach, he had something to eat then made his way to the stadium. It was there that he got his first big surprise of the day: the visitors’ stand and ticket booth were both closed.
"They hadn’t sold a single ticket and so they asked me if there were more Puerto Montt fans coming. I hadn’t seen any others, so they opened the away end just for me. They even put security in there!"
So how were you treated by the 4,000 home fans? "At first there were a few insults thrown, but just ribbing for the most part. But then when they saw I was going to keep cheering anyway, they warmed to me."
The image of him standing all alone in that stand quickly went viral, and by half-time Roja icon Arturo Vidal had already posted the picture of Sebastian on Instagram with the comment: "This is a real fan".
Then after the game, he experienced many kind gestures from the home fans, this despite having watched their team go down 2-1 to the visiting Puerto Montt side. "Some applauded me, others offered to buy me food or drink and bring me to the bus station… I’d never had anything like that happen to me before."
In the days that followed, many Puerto Montt players took to social media to thank him for his support, and he even had a congratulatory call from one Coquimbo player.
"My wife said she was very proud of me, as was my boss, who knew how fanatical I was but hadn’t realised the kind of sacrifices I was making. Many members of the public were also proud and approached me to say how I was an inspiration to them. It was all very gratifying."
For all that, his subsequent nomination for the FIFA Fan Award came as a surprise. "I had just returned from dropping off my daughter at school when I started getting calls to say my nomination was being reported in several media outlets."
Pretty soon he got the confirmation he needed. "I checked the FIFA website, and when I saw it there I had to pinch myself. I had to work that afternoon, but my head was elsewhere during that shift."
This die-hard fan, who has never been outside his homeland, admits that "winning the award would be very significant not just for me, but also for the club, for Chile and for the millions of fans like me in clubs everywhere."