Lucas Ledezma, Matias Vercesi, Leandro Pighi and Silvio Gatti after arriving in Doha.
Doha: An author, teacher, travel agent and content producer from Argentina have completed the journey of a lifetime after cycling from South Africa to Qatar to attend this year’s FIFA World Cup.
The quartet was on the road for 177 days, taking in 10,000km and 15 countries between Cape Town and Doha. They were met in the Qatari capital by throngs of Argentina supporters at the Countdown Clock, with the tournament only days away from kicking off.
“We started this journey in May and every day was an incredible adventure,” said Lucas Ledezma, a PE teacher who took time out from the classroom to focus on the journey.
“People throughout Africa and the Middle East opened their doors to us. They helped us to learn about the culture, share food and even invited us to stay in their homes. We have had an incredible welcome from everybody – including right here in Qatar.”
The idea for the epic ride came after Argentina booked their spot at Qatar 2022 and is the latest in a series of long-distance cycling trips the quartet has made to major sporting events. In 2016, the four men travelled to the Rio Olympics and took on a similar trek to the last FIFA World Cup in Russia. Travel writer Leandro Pighi said he was keen to dispel myths and stereotypes about people in the Middle East and Arab world.
“People in the Middle East are portrayed in a certain way in the media, but in reality, they are all very welcoming,” said Pighi, who recently published a book about a remarkable hike from Argentina to Alaska.
“Everyone has been so generous, regardless of their means – they were all adamant to share food and water with us. I’m glad I got the chance to witness this first-hand. We are here to inspire people – to tell everyone that you can do the impossible,” said Matias Vercesi, a content creator. “We are proud of this journey and are hoping to finally see Argentina win the World Cup for the third time.”
For travel agent Silvio Gatti, the energy the riders have felt since arriving in Qatar has been inspiring.
“I am very excited to be in Qatar. Our journey was long and tiring, but the welcoming atmosphere we have been surrounded by has given us so much energy and made the trip very worthwhile.”
Argentina have been drawn into Group C alongside Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland – and will begin their campaign at Lusail Stadium against the Saudis on 22 November, hoping to repeat their previous World Cup victories in 1978 and 1986.