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From Brazil to Mexico in a Beetle, to see soccer’s biggest tournament

Two Brazilian fans repeat their 1970 road trip to the World Cup in Mexico This time their adventure will be turned into a documentary film

Ivan Charoux and Fael Sawaya.
Ivan Charoux and Fael Sawaya.

The road map of this trip is a little bit like On The Road, the Jack Kerouac book that became the bible of the Beat Generation. It’s a little bit Into the Wild, the story the journalist Jon Krakauer published a decade later. There are only three characters in this tale. Two Brazilians, Ivan Charoux and Fael Sawaya, have known each other since they were six years old, when both lived on a quiet street in Lapa, a neighborhood in Sao Paulo. The third protagonist is an impeccable white 1962 Volkswagen Beetle, or fusca as it is known in Brazil.

Everything began in 1970 as Mexico held the ninth Soccer World Cup. León, Ciudad de México, Puebla, Guadalajara and Toluca hosted the games between May 31 and June 21. The two friends, then single, without children and bearing the few responsibilities typical of twenty-somethings, decided to attend all the Brazil games that year.

And so they did. They took off in their Beetle from Sao Paulo en route to Guadalajara, each with $1,000 in his pocket. “And a few cruzeiros [a Brazilian currency that has since been retired] that we exchanged in an antiques shop,” Sawaya remembers.

The experience marked them so much that they have decided to relive the adventure. Now, 44 years later, the two friends will leave for Mexico the same way they did in 1970. There are, however, two differences: the World Cup will be held in Brazil this year and their road trip will be turned into a movie. A joint Brazilian-Mexican production will provide all cinematographic paraphernalia. Fael and Ivan have already packed their suitcases. They will set off in a few days.

44 years later, the two friends will leave for Mexico the same way they did in 1970

According to Cao Quincas, the filmmaker responsible for the Brazilian side of the production, the road trip will last a little over a month. “We’ve planned 64 travel days in a Beetle car identical to the one they used in 1970,” he explains. Part of this film, Filhos da Pista, will include archival footage of the two friends on that first trip they took 40 years ago. Production is planned to wrap up and have the film ready for a TV premiere soon after the World Cup ends.

Sawaya will take a leave of absence from his job. He works at a Sao Paulo publishing house. Charoux will take some time off his work as a construction worker in Ilhabela on the northern edge of Sao Paulo. Since they will be on the road, they will miss this year’s games. “Even if I were here, I would not go to any of the matches,” Charoux says. “There is so much violence today. Times have changed.”

Although the soccer fan now says he has no plans to attend the tournament, in 1970 he followed it pretty closely. “We attended all the Brazil games. We didn’t miss a single one of them,” Sawaya explains.

We’ve planned 64 travel days in a Beetle car identical to the one they used in 1970”

While they were diehard fans at that time, the World Cup was only a means to an end. The trip itself was the great event. They were partners in a car dealership and they had just bought the 1962 Beetle that would end up taking them all over Mexico for 22 days. “We drove for 15 days,” Sawaya remembers. “On the other eight, we made stops along the way.”

Once they arrived in Mexico, the plan was to make good friends because they were adventurous spirits with little money. “ Being a Brazilian in Guadalajara was enough in 1970,” Sawaya explains. “You didn’t need anything else.” Soccer linked the Mexican hosts and their Brazilian guests. “Since Mexico did not have a team at the time, they ended up cheering for Brazil,” Charoux remembers. “They got excited. They cried. It was a huge party,” Sawaya chimes in. “Mexicans wanted to show the world that friendship still existed.”

Brazil won the 1970 World Cup 4-1 against Italy. After the final whistle the friends decided to stay in the country. When they left, they turned toward the United States. “When the World Cup ended, we stayed in Mexico for another month for free, living with some friends we made over there,” Charoux explains. “And the only thing they wanted was for us to dance samba and play soccer because they were very bad at the game,” Sawaya adds.

We arrived in the United States and all hospitality came to end”

Sawaya and Charoux left Mexico and headed to New York. Later, they visited Chicago. “We arrived in the United States and all hospitality came to end,” Sawaya remembers. From there, they traveled to Canada and then to Alaska. “We didn’t go to Russia because there was no highway to get there,” Charoux says.

Although the Beetle held up during the trip, there were a few inconveniences. “It froze in Alaska. We didn’t know that was possible but it is. It freezes from inside and you have to heat up the car,” Sawaya says. On the way back they pedaled down the American west coast, stopping to work for a few days so they could buy gifts for family members. “We couldn’t go back empty-handed,” Sawaya explains.

When asked if they would take the same trip again, Sawaya doesn’t think twice. “I have a 1929 jalopy and I would like to go back to Alaska with it.” But, his friend does not agree. “I don’t know. Maybe the car would hold up but I wouldn’t."

So, this year’s adventure will end in Mexico. And, if the itinerary is faithful to their 1970 road trip, Brazil will win the Soccer World Cup once more.

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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