“Out of all the unimportant things, football is the most important” – this may not be true in the case of Manuel Cáceres Artesero. For him, football is everything!
Spain’s superfan achieved global fame for his football passion, but it all came at a very high price. He lost his wife and family and wrecked his business, all because of his unconditional love for the beautiful game. This is the story of Manolo el del Bombo, probably the most famous football fan on the planet!
Meet Manolo el del Bombo
His nickname comes from the fact that he plays the bass drum at his national team’s matches. The word for drum in Spanish is bombo, which makes his nickname translate literally to “The drum of Spain”. Although both for Spain’s players and supporters, it’s impossible to imagine a game without Manolo at the stands, it wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he started attending Spain’s matches.
Before he became a celebrity fan, Manolo used to lead a pretty regular life. Sure, he was a real football aficionado, but the most extreme he went was opening a pub dedicated to his favorite team, Valencia CF. Speaking of Manolo’s pub, its location is a few blocks away from Estadio Mestalla, which makes it a favorite place of Valencia supporters. To cash in on that fact, Manolo made the bar a part-time football museum. According to the as.com, Manolo’s famous bar in Valencia is up for sale.
Definitely a good idea, but even the best ideas need hard work in order to turn profitable. But, hard work wasn’t something Manolo had time for since he became obsessed with Spain national football team. The result was that his business suffered and that his wife and children decided to abandon him. But, it seems that he has no regrets. Since he found the cause of his life nearly four decades ago, he’s never been unhappy.
Manolo, the Beginnings
Born in 1949, Manolo’s first abroad adventure as a supporter of Spain was when he was 30. Surely, he was impressed with the atmosphere at the stands, but it took him three more years to realize that the career of a football supporter was what he was born to do.
It was 1982 when Manolo caught the eye of the nation. At this point, he was already a staunch Spain supporter, so he was not going to miss a single game of his team at the World Cup hosted by his own country. Luckily for Manolo, the group games Spain played all took place at the Mestalla or what its name was back in the day, Estadio Luis Casanova.
In 1982, the format of the World Cup was such that after the first group stage, teams were placed in four different 3-team groups, with games being played in Barcelona and Madrid. Spain got to play their matches at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in the country’s capital, Madrid.
The distance between Madrid and Manolo’s hometown, Valencia is about 300 kilometers, so these days, you could be there in an hour if you went by plane. But, forty years ago, plane tickets were much more expensive than they are today. And with no one to finance his trip, Manolo had to hitchhike.
Since then, according to his own estimates, Manolo has hitch-hiked nearly 16 thousand kilometers in order to be with his team. Of course, his efforts didn’t go unnoticed, so he quickly became the nation’s favorite.
2010 South Africa – First Missed Game Since 1979
During the eighties, Manolo became a sort of symbol of Spain national team. La Roja players befriended him and eventually started paying for his trips. And as the quality of Spain grew higher, so was Manolo’s popularity.
The first decade of the 21st century saw Spain growing from a mediocre European team to a World Cup title contender. And then the year 2010 came, the year when the first-ever World Cup on African soil was to take place. With players like Xavi and Iniesta on the pitch and Manolo el del Bombo on the stands, Spain looked destined to win the World Cup.
The tournament was what Manolo was expecting for more than 30 years. But, misfortune struck him just before the game with Paraguay. He was taken ill with pneumonia and despite Spain FA doctors’ efforts, he had to fly back to Spain to receive treatment.
But Manolo had no intentions of letting an illness stop him from supporting his team. He got back right away to attend the semi-final against Germany, as well as the historic final which saw Spain lifting the World Cup trophy for the first time in history.
What’s He Up to These Days?
Age 69, Manolo is still an avid fan of Spain national team. And he has no intention of retiring. And why should he? He’s the nation’s favorite and a sort of a lucky charm for the team. Plus, he gets to travel for free, courtesy of Spain football federation. In return, he gets to do what he likes the most – playing the drums while his team’s playing.
But, he was denied that role this summer in Russia. Russian authorities prevented him from taking his drum kit on the stadium, which was something that seriously offended him. Manolo went so far to ask Spain’s prime minister to intervene, but no use.
And without their most famous fan to support them, La Roja didn’t do very well at the World Cup. In fact, they got knocked out in the Round of 16 by no other than Russia.