Some football fans are taking on an unusual challenge to attend the world’s biggest football tournament— here are some of our favourites.
For some football fanatics, the World Cup challenge does not start with the kick-off whistle, but with the journey to the pitch.
While millions of football fans are stressing about flight availability for the World Cup, a small number have vowed to travel to the Gulf nation in the most unusual and unique ways.
Instead of opting for a mere hours-long plane ride to Doha, some have planned a months-long journey instead. The trip, they say, is all about the memories you make along the way.
Pedaling to the pitch
On August 20, two French football fans packed their backpacks and started making their way to Qatar by pedaling through ten different nations on bicycles to attend the much-awaited FIFA World Cup 2022 in November.
What started as a dream turned into reality when the 26-year-old cyclists, Mehdi from Caen and Gabriel from Bordeaux, set off from Paris to complete the 8,000-kilometre challenge— carrying only panniers and two tents.
Their long journey, fueled by their passion for football, includes biking across ten nations to support their country’s team in the most unusual way.
The two have already crossed Saudi borders after traveling through France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Their journey can be followed on Instagram @Mondialavelo
Get your steps in!
Some fans have taken it to the next level by walking through different continents to reach the host nation, vlogging months of a hectic, yet memorable journey to attend the region’s first-ever FIFA World Cup.
One of them is Spanish national Santiago Sánchez Cogedor, who started his trip on January 2022, 11 months before the opening kick-off, to reach on time. The hiker had already travelled across five nations on his most recent endurance test and had previously cycled to Saudi Arabia to witness his favourite football club Real Madrid play.
Sadly, his endeavour was disrupted after he was allegedly detained in Iran in the midst of nationwide protests, cutting his journey to Qatar short at the last hurdle.
However, others have succeeded in their journey on foot. Saudi football fan, Abdullah Al-Salami, arrived to Qatar on October 28 after walking over 1,400 km from Jeddah to attend the football World Cup.
On September 9, Abdullah Al-Salami started his journey from the Saudi city with the goal of being in Qatar in time for the competition. His journey lasted for around 60 days in total. Now, he is ready to experience the football spirit he travellers days for.
A sustainable ride
While driving to Qatar might be seen by neighbouring GCC residents as normal, a Welsh football fans are taking it a step further by hopping into an electric vehicle for the journey.
The group, who includes former Cardiff City player Scott Young, Nick Smith, Huw Talfryn Walters, and Walter Pennell, departed from the Football Association of Wales (FAW) headquarters at the Vale Resort in Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan on October 28 and began their 8,046-kilometer journey to the Gulf Nation.
Their goal is to arrive in Qatar just in time for Wales’ World Cup match, and they are optimistic that their journey will be completed just in time.
“We know most people think this is a mad plan—we’ve even had Gareth Bale himself sat in the car looking a bit doubtful about whether we can actually achieve this,” the group said.
“But we’re confident in the car and we’re up for the challenge. We’re driven by both a love for football and a passion for the positive change electric cars can bring for people and the planet.”
The group will travel through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia on the first leg of their 22-day adventure before arriving in Greece.
“There will be bumps in the road for sure, but we’ve got loads of support behind us and we can’t wait to get to Qatar and join the other fans and support Wales in their first World Cup in 64 years,” Smith told the BBC.
Solo woman ride
Another driver is currently speeding through different countries to witness the grand FIFA World Cup, but this time, it is a 33-year-old woman on a courageous solo trip to the Gulf nation.
33-year-old Najira Noushad (Naaji Noushi) departed from Kannur on a solo ride in her favourite vehicle, Mahindra Thar, to experience the football tournament and make unforgettable memories along the way. She refers to Thar as “Olu” (woman in local parlance) and aims to be the first woman from Kerala to cross the Gulf countries to watch the World Cup.
The homemaker from Mahe took on the journey to spread the message of “safety for women to travel anywhere around the world.” She also hopes to inspire other women to embark on adventures without hesitation.
Noushi, a passionate traveller, YouTuber, and vlogger, began her journey on Tuesday from Mahe. She will travel to Mumbai through Coimbatore and then take a ship to Oman. Then, in Thar, she will travel by road, travelling via the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, among other nations.
“Travelling to Qatar in my Thar was a dream because I always wanted to be less dependent on others. Though I travel alone, my biggest support system is my husband and mother,” she told The New Indian Express.
“My mother who takes care of my five-year-old child is indeed an inspiration. If not for her, I would never be able to do things independently.”