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By Neil Maidment
SALVADOR, Brazil, June 12 (Reuters) - A World Cup adventure in the vast expanse of Brazil is a demanding task for any fan but one Dutchman arrives having already clocked up 21,000 kilometres in his truck 'Nellie' before a ball is kicked.
Ben Oude Kamphuis, 53, rolled across Brazil's northern border in late May in his original 1955 Chevy, after a five month journey that began in San Francisco and incorporated desert, mountains and rainforest on his way through 12 countries to the World Cup hosts.
"I don't know how we did this but we are in Bahia, Salvador, so she did it. All my respect to the old truck, 'Nellie'," Oude Kamphuis told Reuters on Thursday, while being mobbed by soccer fans and children eager for a photo with a man dressed head to toe in Dutch orange, clogs, a huge hat and glasses.
Oude Kamphuis is not the only attraction, though. 'Nellie', also coated in the famous Dutch orange, is decorated in hand prints from the disabled children he works with in San Francisco, not to mention flags, soccer boots, memorabilia and thousands of signatures from well wishers passed on his journey.
"Through football the world comes together, everybody watches the World Cup, and it is so powerful that through football there is no difference between any nation," Oude Kamphuis said with a Dutch twang poking through an American accent obtained after 28 years in the United States.
Having cried after each of the Netherlands' three World Cup final defeats in 1974, 1978 and 2010, he declared he would drive 'Nellie' to Brazil.
"I said to my son, I gotta go, the Dutch can't get it together, so I gotta go myself."
He set off without any tickets for the matches.
"That wasn't really that important to me," Oude Kamphuis said, pointing to messages on his truck calling for an end to racism and discrimination. "This was about the celebration of football, but also the celebration of people."
Oude Kamphuis, who organises therapeutic recreation for disabled children, spent nights in the back of his truck in a makeshift bedroom draped with Dutch soccer scarves, and broke up his days by doing talks at schools for disabled children.
Having celebrated his arrival in Salvador, where his beloved Dutch side begin their World Cup campaign against Spain on Friday, he even managed to bag himself a ticket for the match.
"I'm going to the game!", he said, as another fan loitered for a photo. (editing by Justin Palmer)
- Sports & Recreation
- Oude Kamphuis