Carlos Alberto Barreira lived and breathed soccer. He was such a devoted fan of “the beautiful game” that he rarely went anywhere without his red S.L. Benfica jersey.
“Soccer was his world. Soccer was everything to him,” said his sister, Ana Madeira, of New Bedford.
Barreira’s passion for o jogo bonito and his undying loyalty for Benfica, the top-flight Portuguese soccer club, was such that his family had him buried wearing his favorite jersey.
“We didn’t want to give him a traditional formal funeral. He was going to go out wearing his soccer gear,” said Madeira, who still becomes overtaken with emotion nearly a year after her brother died from COVID-19 complications. He was only 30.
“He was everyone’s baby. He was spoiled by all of us,” Madeira said. “There is not a day that goes by that no one talks about him or thinks about him. It’s very unreal. But unfortunately, this is the reality.”
Madeira, who works in health care and lives with her family near Riverside Park in the city’s near North End, said she contracted the novel coronavirus early last year. She quarantined herself from the rest of her live-in relatives, but her brother was still infected. He developed a high fever that never subsided.
“I would give him Tylenol. It would clear for a little bit and then it would go back up. I would give him Motrin, and the same thing would happen,” Madeira said.
The family decided to take him to the hospital. On that day – June 11, 2020 – Madeira remembers seeing her brother slide down the stairs from their second-floor apartment. He was talking and walking on his own power as he went outside to the car.
A few hours later, Madeira’s mom called her.
“She said, ‘It’s pretty bad. You should probably come,’” Madeira said.
Shortly after Madeira arrived at St. Luke’s Hospital, a little less than two hours later, her brother’s heart gave out. Just like that, he was gone.
“When people say this virus isn’t real …” said Madeira, before her voice trailed off in mid-sentence. “I really wish this (virus) wasn’t the truth, because then that means he would still be here with me.”
Barreira was born and raised in New Bedford and attended the Southeastern Massachusetts Educational Collaborative. His sister said he was disabled and had the mental capacity of someone much younger. Still, he was an active member of the Senhora da Pedra Club and a parishioner at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church.
Barreira loved being around his family, and was affectionate toward all his relatives. He doted on his baby niece, Madeira’s daughter Beatriz.
“His world revolved around soccer and family,” Madeira said. “He always wanted everybody to be together. He was so loveable and caring …”
Barreira supported Benfica and Santa Clara, another Portuguese soccer club and was a member of social clubs for both teams. He even traveled to Lisbon, where he toured Benfica’s stadium and watched the team play live in three matches.
Madeira said the relatives who were able to attend his funeral in person all wore Benfica jerseys, including the pallbearers. Other family members and friends paid their respects by also donning Benfica gear and waving Benfica flags from their vehicles in the lengthy procession that followed Barreira’s casket from the church to the cemetery.
“It was beautiful,” Madeira said. “We gave him the appropriate Carlos farewell.”
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