Força Portugal

by Henrica Vanderaa

If you watched any of the Euro2020 games this past June/July on Portuguese TV, you may have seen Carlos Brum featured as the most famous, colourful, fan of the Portuguese team. Carlos has not missed one game in which Portugal played in either the Euro or World Cup since 1986.

What is so unique about a man who loves football and his national team? Driving through Odiáxere on the EN125, you may have noticed a Mercedes van splashed with the Portuguese national colours and with a few famous Portuguese faces, such as Ronaldo, painted on the sides. Take a closer look and you’ll see the van is typically parked close to Namaste Buddha Meditation shop or Loja dos Budhas. Carlos is a man who is as passionate about football and the Portuguese team as he is about travelling and Asian artefacts, especially Buddha statues. 

Originally from the Azores, Carlos came to the Algarve in 1977. His first stop was Carrapateira, the second Lagos. From there he hitchhiked to Seville, on to Germany … and continued travelling for the next 26 years. He has visited 184 countries in total and unabashedly admits that Ethiopia and Nepal are his two favourite places. But his passion for Buddha statues and Asian handicrafts is what took him to Asia and inspired him to open his shop in Odiáxere. Loja dos Budhas has a fascinating collection of statues, jewelry, décor, incense, and other curiosities. Most customers are through word of mouth and come from all corners of Portugal, Europe and beyond.

Carlos is married to a delightful Portuguese woman, Ana Silva, who does not accompany him on his football adventures. She is happy to run the shop while Carlos and his buddies take to the road in the famous van to follow the Portuguese team as they did with the 2020 Euro Cup; first to Budapest, Munich and finally to Seville where Portugal lost to Belgium. Carlos was disappointed with the game but happy to be close to home. If Portugal was going to be knocked out, better in Seville then Budapest!

Carlos takes his football team seriously but the games with a lot of fun. He typically stocks up the van with Portuguese wine, bacalhau (dried codfish), choriço (Portuguese sausage), and other traditional items to enjoy with old and new friends alike. Carlos is a true bon vivant – enjoying the journey of life and each experience that it brings – and is keen to share his joy.

What’s next for Carlos and the Portuguese team? Look closely at the back of the van and you will see the words “Qatar 2022”. Carlos is already preparing for the World Cup next year. He plans on leaving the Algarve at the end of September 2022 to be in Qatar for the November 2022 games. Nothing daunts him and to drive 10,000 km to see the Portuguese team play is worth every km. But first Portugal must qualify. And if they don’t, Carlos will remove the Qatar 2022 from his van and replace it with Germany 2024 when the next Euro Cup takes place.

The shop is worth a visit, not only for the extensive collection of Asian handicrafts and Buddha statues, but also for a chat with Carlos about his travel adventures, or with Ana Silva about their travels together. If you are lucky, the man might even give you a tour of his “Força Portugal” van, which, like its owner, is unique both on the outside and inside. 

Photos © Sean Vanderaa

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