A trio of football fans from Argentina who cycled 10,000km to Qatar to watch their country play in the FIFA World Cup are in a last-minute hunt for tickets to today’s final, where they hope to see Lionel Messi lead their country to victory against France.
It took Lucas Ledezma, Leandro Pighi and Matias Vilaruel six months to ride from Cape Town in South Africa to the Qatari capital Doha, passing through 15 countries on the way, reports The National, and have posted updates on their adventure to their Todo A Pedal account on Instagram.
The three friends, accompanied by a fourth rider, Silvio Gatti, who has had to head to Australia to take up a new job before the final, arrived in Qatar on the eve of the tournament and have been to all six of Argentina’s games to date.
But while tickets are available for the last match of the tournament through unofficial channels at hugely inflated prices, they have appealed to world football’s governing body, FIFA, to try and secure seats at face value.
“We started this adventure in May and it was an incredible journey,” Mr Pighi told The National.
“We took flights to Cape Town from Argentina and started cycling all the way through Africa and Asia to Qatar. We followed our football passion and chant for the team in all matches.
“We want to get match tickets but until now there are no tickets. We have been searching for tickets for three days now,” he continued.
“There are tickets on the black market but they are expensive. We want to buy tickets with FIFA’s official price.
He added: “It is unfair for Argentina fans not to have match tickets. We followed the team all the way from Argentina to Doha and we are here looking to support them in the stadium not outside the stadium.”
Fellow cyclist and Albaceleste fan Mr Ledezma said: “People throughout Africa and the Middle East were very generous with us. They welcomed and opened their doors to us.”
Mr Pighi also praised the welcome that he and his friends had received in Qatar.
“People here are very friendly, smiling and welcoming us all the time,” he said. “They share their food, water and offered us somewhere to rest and have showers at their homes.
“Qatar was really amazing for us. And we hope we can have the title tonight for Argentina.”
The final sees 35-year-old Lionel Messi – in Argentina’s emblematic iconic 10 shirt previously worn to World Cup victory by Mario Kempes and Diego Maradona – seeking to secure the one major trophy that has eluded him in his stellar career.
Meanwhile, France’s talisman Kylian Mbappé, a member of the team that triumphed in Russia four years ago, will be looking to help his country become the first nation to successfully defend the title since Brazil did so in Chile in 1962.
Mbappé, who turns 24 on Tuesday, and Messi are team-mates at Paris St Germain, owned by Qatar Sports Investments – and with five goals apiece in the tournament so far, they jointly head the chase for the Golden Boot awarded to the top goalscorer, adding a further sub-plot to the match.
Whichever country wins today will be lifting the World Cup for the third time, with Argentina triumphing in 1978 and 1986, and France securing the trophy in 1998 and 2018 – both countries debut victories coming on home soil.
In the UK, the match will be shown live on both BBC One and ITV1, with kick-off at 3pm GMT.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.