Saddest Story of the Week: Seattle Man Dies Kicking Soccer Ball to Brazil

Seattle is host to its fair share of wanderers, eccentrics, and dreamers, and today we mourn the loss of a man who was all three. Richard Swanson, an Emerald City native who set off to dribble a soccer ball from Seattle to Sao Paulo, Brazil, died after being hit by a car in Oregon.

A big soccer fan, and having recently been laid off as a graphic designer, Swanson decided to achieve his dream of attending the World Cup, even if that meant walking there. In the “about me” video on his website Swanson said “all the pieces [for the trip] seemed to fit.”

“I sold my house, my boys are older now...I don’t have job at the moment,” he said. “I said to myself that I should just walk to the world cup, and screw what happens I don’t even care; just take off out the front door and start hoofing it...As crazy as that idea sounds that idea spurred on to the next leg of ‘well since I’m going to the world cup, I should honor that by dribbling a soccer ball.’ Which would make the trip even more crazy.”

He set out from Seattle on May 1 with a sleeping bag, a backpack, and a soccer ball seeking help along the way on his planned route through eleven countries. He found shelter and documented his journey through his Facebook page “Breakaway Brazil.” In an interview with Salon.com, Swanson’s close friend Kristi Schwesinger said all his stops came from “word of mouth, Facebook, media contacts, friends and family who put the word out.”

His blue soccer ball came from an organization called The One World Futbol Project, which donates durable soccer balls to people in developing countries, a project which Schwesinger called his passion. Lisa Tarver, chief operating officer at One World Futbol said in a statement:

“We are deeply saddened to learn about Richard’s death. He was an inspiring man who in a very short time walked his way into so many lives. Our thoughts are with his family.”

He was struck along Highway 101 in Lincoln City, OR and was declared dead at the hospital. According to Salon police have not charged the driver, but they have recovered Swanson’s soccer ball. He is survived by two sons, age 22 and 18.

 
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