Clifin Francis, an avid football fan, began his journey from Dubai and cycled all the way to Russia to watch the FIFA World Cup and, most importantly, to meet his childhood superstar, Lionel Messi.
Back in August, when Francis was asked by his friend if he was going to watch the FIFA World Cup 2018, he replied by saying that he might even go to watch the matches in Russia itself.
Francis lives in South India and works as a freelance math teacher, earning $40 a day. He told BBC that he initially had no idea how he would go about his journey to Russia with the limited money he earns. He said, “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? A bicycle was the answer.”
Therefore, on February 23, Clifin Francis flew to Dubai where he bought a $700 bike. He then took a ferry to Bandar Abbas in Iran and reached there by March 11. From there, he began his 4,200 kilometers cycling journey to Russia, where the FIFA World Cup is being played.
He said that the reason behind this endeavor was his love for football and cycling. “I simply combined two of my passions.”
He also said that his initial plan was to start his journey via Pakistan but he could not do it because of tensions between India and Pakistan. He told Khaleej Times, “Initially, I wanted to make the entire journey from India, but I faced challenged getting visas to Pakistan and crossing the border. So, I decided to fly to Dubai.”
Francis crossed Azerbaijan and Iran on his bicycle but could not cross Georgia because his visa was rejected at the border. He explained, “That was one of the toughest parts of my journey. It made me very sad I wasn’t allowed into Georgia. I notice that people everywhere are nice, but governments not so much.”
He further narrated that he found a German, while in crisis, who would go on to become his friend. “When I got stranded at the Azerbaijan- Georgia border, I was with a German cyclist friend. I was with him for five days, and we were supposed to go to Tbilisi together. When I got stranded, he gave me his sim card, and that helped me a lot with connectivity,” he recalled.
Recently, on June 5, his journey reached near its end part when he reached Russia and had just 600 kilometres left to go to Moscow and watch the group stage C football fixture of France vs Denmark on Tuesday, June 26 at the Luzhniki Stadium.
At that point, Francis said that “I have another five days, 450km more, to get to Moscow – and I am beyond excited.”
He also stated that he wanted to watch his childhood superstar Lionel Messi to play in action. But he only got the tickets for the France v Denmark match. “It’s the only game I managed to get tickets for,” he said.
Francis also explained how much of an amazing time he had in Baku in Azerbaijan, and in Iran. He said regarding Iran, “Several families hosted me for free, and I made a lot of friends. I would camp outside magnificent mosques because I felt safe and there was always plenty of fresh, clean water, and access to clean toilets.”
He continued, “Cycling became less painful because of the beautiful Iranian countryside. I would definitely go back.”