Our Second Winner: Joe Bass
At the age of 51, window cleaner Joe embarked on what would turn out to be a life-changing adventure when he followed England to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Joe dedicated his life working all hours to provide for his wife and kids, on a window cleaner’s salary. At 51, his children had now flown the nest, instilling in Joe a brand-new lease of life – he was free to fly. And fly he did.
While his wife thought he was mad, Joe was determined to do things his own way – staying in tents and grubby hostels, travelling light, cheap and solo.
Joe wanted the authentic experience, asking for help (as he puts it – you nearly always get it) and offering it, meeting the locals and fans from around the world – all united by their love for the game.
England’s exploits in 2010 were nothing to write home about. Joe (optimistically) booked tickets all the way up to the final, only for Germany to trample over England’s hopes and Joe’s dreams in the last 16.
While Joe was gutted to see England out of the tournament, by then it was too late. He was hooked. Joe had loved almost every moment of his experience – with the sole exception being the time he’d been surrounded by hungry baboons while cycling on the outskirts of Cape Town. Above all, it was the kindness of the people he had met that made the biggest impression.
Euro 2012 was next, and with the vuvuzelas of Cape Town still ringing in Joe’s ears, he travelled to Ukraine. That too ended in tears. But there were good memories too, including being treated like a king by gold-toothed miners in Donetsk and a boat journey up the Dnieper.
Then it was Brazil, for the 2014 World Cup where disaster struck, as Joe’s credit card was cloned and he ended up with £1.45 in his account with two weeks left.
But again, Joe was able to rely on the kindness of strangers. He recalls being hopelessly lost in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, before the locals led him out, almost by hand. Then there was the visit to the Cristo Redentor statue and watching Brazil play on one of the giant screens erected on Copacabana. Joe stayed until long after midnight.
Joe was even rescued from his bed-less state by a family, who took him on a boat trip along the Rio Negra, to the jungle city of Manaus.
Joe’s most recent adventure took him to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he was finally able to forgive the England team its past transgressions as they made it to the semi-finals.
Joe went to all seven games, visiting six cities in the process. He travelled 7594 kms by air and 6716 kms by train. He High-fived at least 80 volunteers, sleeping an average of four hours a night, losing three pairs of glasses, five pairs of socks, a pair of shoes and a box of cornflakes along the way.
The highlights of his trip? Visiting the Mother of Russia monument in Volgograd and Gorky Park in Moscow – and of course, the penalty shoot-out against Columbia.
In Joe’s own words: “I loved it all because all the world is truly united for four weeks watching and playing football.”
Joe has decided to donate his £1,000 prize to his local side Newark Town where he also volunteers.
If Joe wins the ultimate £10,000 prize, he’ll be taking his wife to Qatar 2022 to join him on his next World Cup adventure – to say thank you to her for letting him live out his dreams. The happy couple have been together for 45 years and our Head Judge Alan Shearer found himself moved by Joe’s pledge to share the prize with his wife.
If you’re inspired by Joe’s story, or have a tale to match it – nominate yourself or a mate here.