An Indian cycled to Russia to meet his hero, Messi: A WC 18’s story
After being asked if he was going to the World Cup 2018, Clifin Francis, an Indian football lover, decided to cycle to Russia to get the chance to see his idol – Lionel Messi.
In August, last year, Mr. Francis was discussing with a friend of his about the World Cup 2018 that was about to come when his friend asked him whether or not he was going to see the biggest event in the football industry.
“Of course,” Mr. Francis replied. “I might even travel to Russia to watch the extravaganza.”
But even though he seemed certain when answering his friend’s question, he had no idea how he would afford buying the air tickets to get to Russia. He is a freelance Maths teacher and he earns no more than $40 a day.
“I realized I wouldn’t have enough money to travel to Russia and stay for a month. Then I asked myself – what could be the cheapest way of traveling? Bicycle was the answer,” were his words.
At first, friends didn’t believe he was actually going to do this, but Mr. Francis had already made up his mind. Thus, he started his epic journey on February 23rd, 2018. He traveled to Dubai by air and then to Iran by ferry. But the capital of Russia was still 4,200 km away from there and this was the distance he was going to travel by bike.
The prize at the end of this journey? A chance to see his idol – Lionel Messi, who plays for Argentina’s football team and who is known to be the best footballer in the world.
“I love cycling and I am crazy about football. I simply combined two of my passions,” Clifin Francis said in an interview.
The first challenges
Although he had initially established his route via Pakistan, he changed plans after a while due to tense relations with India.
“The change in plan cost me a lot. I could not take my bike to Dubai and had to buy a new one there which cost $700. It wasn’t the best one for long-distance travels but that’s all I could afford,” he explained.
He even had a plan on how much money to spend on a daily basis – no more than $10 a day. When in Iran, the locals invited him to stay in their houses over the night and even offered him food. That was the moment when Mr. Francis changed his perception of this country.
More problems arise
Constant cycling made him lose a lot of weight, which actually caused him problems at the border between Iran and Azerbaijan.
“I didn’t look like my picture in the passport. The police took more than eight hours to verify my details, but they were nice to me,” he mentioned.
Things got even more complicated when he reached Georgia, as he was refused entry. He had to change plans once again, even though he was about halfway to Russia’s capital. He was unable to return to Azerbaijan because he had a single-entry visa for this country. Fortunately, after spending one day between the two countries, he was given an urgent visa by Azerbaijan and was finally able to re-enter the country.
“I then had to find another route to get into Russia. Somebody told me that Azerbaijan shared a land border with the Dagestan region of Russia. I went there without realizing that it was not considered safe. But I had no option of turning back and I entered Dagestan on 5 June.”
The journey goes on
At the time of writing this article, Mr. Francis has reached Tambov, which is a city located about 460 km South of Moscow, by road. Let’s hope that he will be in Russia by June 26th, when the France vs. Denmark match is scheduled, as this is the only game he managed to buy tickets for.
“But I support Argentina and Lionel Messi is my favorite – I worship him. It’s my dream to meet him and ask him to sign my bicycle.”
Mr. Francis hopes that his amazing story and the adventures he went through in this journey will inspire people about both football and cycling.
Source of all photos: Clifin Francis Facebook’s account