Matchu Lopes was born on Sal Island, Cape Verde and is now aged 23yrs. As he made his way through Porto Antigo to meet me for a coffee at Papayas restaurant in Santa Maria, staff and other local people came up to him to give their congratulations, Matchu was very humble.
He had come to meet me to chat about the challenges he faced as a Cape Verdean athlete. Like many Cape Verdeans, Matchu finds it difficult to compete in other countries if he can't get a visa to travel, it wasn't just a visa to his final destination, as sometimes it required a stop over in another country first and therefor a visa was also required for that.
It's the time travelling or waiting to hear if I have the visa I require that is sometimes frustrating. I have been to Dakar to get a visa, but there you have to wait after submitting your application in person, before you can fly back to Cape Verde a week later. I've had a visa to enter the States, but that expires in 2017. I also have a Shengen visa and had to apply in Italy to get a visa to enter Ireland for a competition, but now I am required to compete in tours in other countries as well as re-applying for the other visa's that are due to expire, that's part of my job, not my sponsors. I have to do the research and see what the costs are of flights, easiest routes and find the info on entry visa's and apply for them in time to get me to my final destination, but I need help with that as it's not easy, the time I need to spend looking then having a good application for visa's can be very time consuming and to be honest, I am not always sure where to start looking or if my visa application is good enough. I need help with these things.
My sponsors are 'ION-Clothing Accessories' and 'North.K.Kiteboarding'. My sponsors are great but they need me to get to places to compete. On one occasion I was supposed to meet my sponsors in Indonesia, but visa was refused.
One local travel agent met with Matchu to look at options to get him to the Grenadines (Union Islands) as he was due to make a video with his sponsors there in December. He would be working there with young athletes, teaching them basic safety in the water and with equipment. One route via New York was too expensive and another was difficult time wise. Matchu says it would be great if he could get a local sponsor in Cape Verde, but he hasn't had any offers.
Invite to Praia
He had been contacted by Government representatives in Praia which is on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde to ask if he could travel over to attend a ceremony in November for them to congratulate him for winning and becoming World Champion.He decided to go as he thought it would be a great opportunity to ask for help with visa's.
Matchu travelled to Praia by plane, met with officials who congratulated him on his achievement, but he had to fund the trip himself and stay with friends in Praia, as he wasn't offered accommodation or travel expenses and has not received any help with visa's or funding thus far.
Final photo of Matchu being presented with World Champion status in 2016.
As for how Matchu has been doing since we met, I will seek an update.