By Silvio Castellanos
KRASNODAR, Russia (Reuters)
Spain’s superfan Manolo Caceres has made huge personal and financial sacrifices to support his country, beating his massive drum, but after following his team to 10 World Cups he says he has no regrets at all
“I’ve given up everything for football – my businesses and everything – but I’m still alive. I’m happy, I get to follow Spain everywhere. What more could I ask for?” he tells Reuters.
“I’m loved by everyone. Money is not everything. I would choose to be loved over having more money. It’s all been worth it. I would do it again, even though they criticize me and say I’m crazy.”
Caceres, known as Manolo El del Bombo (the man with the drum) and instantly recognizable due to the huge instrument he always has with him, first traveled abroad to watch Spain play in Cyprus in 1979.
Regulations have prevented him from banging his giant drum at Spain’s games at this World Cup, but after the Spanish Football Federation took the matter up with organizers FIFA, he thinks he will be given permission to take it into the Luzhniki stadium when Spain play Russia on Sunday in the last 16.
“Russia is a phenomenal country, even though they haven’t allowed me to take me drum with me into stadiums,” he says.
“If they allow me to take it in on Sunday, my time here will be even better.”
The Spanish federation have taken such a liking to Manolo that they now pay for his travel and accommodation when he goes to watch the team. And given the number of requests for autographs and photos he receives from passers-by, it could be argued he is as famous as some of the footballers.
“The fact that people recognize me and show me love is what keeps me going,” he says.
“No-one used to follow the national team. The people said this guy with the drum is nuts, but I just wanted to support Spain and to represent my country.”
(Reporting by Silvio Castellanos, writing by Richard Martin; Editing by Neville Dalton)