Lionel Messi celebrates his goal during a match in New Jersey. File / AFP
Three ardent soccer fans have cycled all the way from Cape Town, South Africa, to Doha, Qatar to cheer for Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off on Nov.20.
The Argentinian trio of Lucas Ledezma, Leandro Blanco Pighi, and Silvio Gatti crossed into Qatar through the Abu Samra land border crossing with Saudi Arabia and will visit the World Cup Countdown clock.
The Argentine fans, who started the cycling trip on May 15 covered some 10,500-km on the gruelling and endurance testing trip, were delighted to reach the World Cup host country a good 13 days before the football showpiece event.
“We arrived in Qatar on Sunday night and we reached Doha, the capital city on Monday morning. It was a testing and challenging journey and we are happy we reached our destination much ahead of the World Cup kick off date,” said Ledezma, a 34-year-old physical education teacher, who has been to two previous World Cups in Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018).
Ledezma has also travelled on two wheels to cheer Argentina at the 2018 Rio Olympics and the 2015 Copa America in Chile and have so far been to 57 countries before setting out on this trip.
“We are looking forward to a good time in Qatar during the World Cup and hope Argentina can win the World Cup and we are also eager to meet some of the Argentina fans who are based in Qatar and also those who have already arrived into Qatar,” said 31-year-old Pighi, a documentary maker, a writer and a travel agent, who already has two books against his name.
The next agenda on the trio, who come from diverse fields, but jell together because of their love for football is to meet the Argentinian team in Qatar.
“We want to get to Messi. We are Lucas, Silvio and Lea and we are giving it all for the Scaloneta. We travel by bike to Qatar, crossing Africa and the Middle East. We started in South Africa and we are now past 10 countries. Today we are in Saudi Arabia, to pedal the last 2,000-km to see Messi caress the football,” the trio wrote on their Instagram page TODO A PEDAL when they reached Saudi Arabia.
Further, they said they want to see Scaloneta win the third title in Qatar on Dec.18, the country for whom the two titles came in 1978 and 1986 and the three runner’s up places happened in 1930, 1990 and 2014.
“The Odyssey has three goals: Get to Qatar and to look for the World Cup trophy next to the Scaloneta, record a documentary about the trip, plant a tree for every kilometer traveled,” said Ledezma, Pighi, and Gatti, who cycled up to 80 miles each day and slept in tents or at homes of people they meet along the way.
Hailing from the province of Cordoba, located about 600-km northwest of the country’s capital, Buenos Aires, the group’s trip aims to help the environment leading to 10,500 new trees being planted in their homeland.
Besides watching the matches, each kilometre travelled will be marked by the planting of a tree in the mountains of Cordoba.
“The Cordoba native forest has been suffering for decades because of deforestation, and at present there is only 3 per cent of its total left. That’s why we want to raise awareness. Our one of the main goals during this bike journey through Africa and the Middle East, is to collaborate with our beautiful Province of Cordoba. We want to transform every mile with planting a tree,” they wrote on their Instagram page.
Argentina are scheduled to play their first match on Nov.22 against Saudi Arabia at the Lusail stadium in Qatar.
Indo-Asian News Service