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Remembering the Brazilian paragliding adventures of Roy Keane and friends

Manchester United in Brazil.

Roy Keane and paragliding aren’t words that you would ever place together. but as one of his ex-teammates has revealed, even the Corkman is partial to a bit of aerial activity from time to time.

In his autobiography Fast Forward, Andy Cole recalls Manchester United’s controversial trip to Brazil to take part in the 2000 FIFA Club World Championship, just months after the Red Devils completed their historic Treble.

On the insistence of the FA, Ferguson’s men boarded a plane to Brazil in January to take part in the experimental pre-cursor to the Club World Cup, much to the chagrin of many people back home, who felt they were devaluing the FA Cup by not defending their trophy.

It all turned out to be a disaster as United finished third in their group but none of that will matter to a group of players who were only delighted to have jetted off for a few weeks in the sun, in the middle of the domestic season.

Roy Keane’s paragliding adventure.

There’s only so much sitting by the pool you can do though, so one day a crew consisting of Cole, Keane, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs decided to go for a hike, with the aim of getting an aerial view over Rio de Janeiro.

Once they reached the top of the mountain though, the fearless foursome decided to try something that was sure to have their manager fuming if he ever found out – they would go paragliding.

That is three of them would, as Cole has a last-minute change of heart, as he explains in his book:

“Hold on, what date is it?,” I ask. “It’s Friday,” says Giggsy. “Not the day, the date.” “Oh, it’s the 13th.”

“Now, I’m not the most superstitious man around but I’m getting out of there. There is no way I am jumping off a mountain and floating on the wind on Friday the 13th. ‘See you later’.

Andy Cole recalls Roy Keane paragliding trip.

Off the striker trudged back to the pool where the rest of the United party were relaxing, including Ferguson.

“The thing to know here is, activities like paragliding are frowned upon at football clubs like Manchester United, even if strapped to instructors as they were going to be,” Cole writes.

“Managers and contracts tend to steer their multi-million-pound assets away from such extreme sports.

“I sit back down by the pool and it’s not long before you can hear shouts coming from high above.

“‘Oi, d***heads!’ We all look around before looking up. ‘Down there, you d***heads!’ High above the hotel, three bird-like fugures, hovering, shouting their abuse. ‘What a bunch of d***heads.’

“As the lads look confused, I’m trying not to laugh. The gaffer sits up from his sun lounger and says ‘Who the hell are those idiots?’ I shake my head, trying to suppress even a smile.

“‘Must be a few tourists who don’t like United, boss,’ I say. ‘Idiots.'”

Man United on tour.

Cole goes on to outline how the three flying men later gave him some stick for pulling out but it could be argued that Roy Keane the manager would have admired the forward’s sense of responsibility.

All these years later, Cole is back on a far-flung tour with United in his role as club ambassador, as Erik ten Hag’s men prepare for the new season in Thailand and Australia.


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A post shared by Andrew Cole (@andycole09)

Given his own experience in the past, perhaps the 50-year-old is keeping one eye on the skies during the team’s downtime.

Extract taken from Fast Forward by Andy Cole, written with Leo Moynihan. First published in 2020.

This article was first published in July 2022.

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