A Watford FC fan from Oxhey has quit his job as an accountant in order to tackle a five-month charity cycle ride encompassing all 12 of the 2014 World Cup stadiums in Brazil.
Andy Smith, 35, arrived in Porto Alegre this week and will cycle more than 5,500 miles to the Arena Amazonia, Manaus to see England play Italy on June 14.
Along the way he will visit all 12 stadiums used in the 2014 football world cup, including the Arena de Sao Paulo and the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia.
Mr Smith is hoping to raise money for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and Watford FC’s Community Sports and Education Trust, and has currently collected £1,500 towards his aim of £5,500.
He said: "I found my job so unfulfilling I quit to do this adventure. My aim is that the new skills and experiences I learn on this trip will help launch me into a more meaningful career in the future.
"I’ve been to many England games over the years, at the old Wembley, the 2002 World Cup in Japan, and the 2004 Euros in Portugal.
"I was at the new Wembley to see Croatia prevent us from reaching Euro 2008. I knew that Brazil 2014 is my dream World Cup and I really had to go to this one."
Mr Smith started cycling in 2009 when a friend asked if he wanted to take part in a trip to take on a Tour De France mountain stage.
He said: "The ‘medium’ mountain stage proved to be a lot tougher than I expected and it was the hardest day of my life.
"The following day we headed over the final mountain from France into Switzerland and following an amazing descent and ride along the bank of Lake Geneva I was hooked on road cycling. Since then the same group of mates, now known as The Mountain Goats, have crossed the Yorkshire Dales, climbed famous Alps The Galibier, Alpe D’Huez and Col de la Croix do Fer, and this year scaled the Giro D’Italia legend the Stelvio Pass and its neighbour the Gavia Pass."
Andy having scaled the Stelvio Pass
However it was not until a charity cycle from Germany to Italy in May 2013, organised by his company, that Mr Smith decided to swap his desk job for a pair of cycling shorts.
He said: "I returned to London not inspired that such an incredible event could be organised and achieved by people from the company that I worked for, but knowing I needed to leave that company and go and do more of this type of thing.
"After a few weeks of agonising, I took the plunge and resigned. Ultimately I couldn’t justify not doing it.
"I left my job on September 6 and since then have got on with planning and preparing for the Brazil cycle tour."
During his first stop, in Porto Alegre, Mr Smith met up with former Bushey Heath resident David Brew, who now lives in Brazil.
He said: "As a fellow Watford fan living in Porto Alegre, which was to be Andy’s first port of call, I offered my help to get him going. "He arrived on Saturday and left on Tuesday after a somewhat hectic stay, where we arranged a variety of TV, newspaper and radio interviews.
"We also organised a ride from the Town Hall together with the mayor and his wife, the secretary for sports and a contingent of bike-riding traffic police to the stadium.
"We visited the Instituto de Cancer Infantil (The Children’s Cancer Institute) and finally, construction work was halted to allow Andy to enter the stadium, receive a club shirt with his name on it as well as a club flag. "Wearing the shirt he cycled around the pitch before riding off towards his next target, Curitiba."
Mr Brew said the media in Brazil were extremely interested in Mr Smith’s ride.
He added: "We were extremely happy with the reception we were able to arrange for "our" cyclist and are attempting to open some doors for him in the other cities.
"It was wonderful having Andy with us here and the Honorary British Consul, Denise Pellin, was a tower of strength with her broad range of contacts.
"She is urging her consular colleagues to help him where they can along the way. All in all it was an inspiring visit and now we just have to hope that all goes well with Andy."
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