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World Cup 2018: The Indian who cycled to Russia to meet Messi

Thursday 21/June/2018 - 01:31 PM
Sada El Balad
Clifin Francis was sitting at home in southern India when a friend asked if he was going to the World Cup، according to "BBC".
"Of course،" he replied. "I might even travel to Russia to watch the extravaganza."
That was in August - but he had no idea how he would afford the air tickets from Kerala where he lives. Mr Francis is a freelance maths teacher and earns $40 (£30) a day.
"I realised 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 travelling? Bicycle was the answer."
Friends didn't believe him، but by then he'd made up his mind.
On 23 February، he started on an epic journey that took him by air to Dubai، and then ferry to Iran. From there the Russian capital is still more than 4،200km (2،600 miles) away by bike.
The prize at the end - a chance to see his hero، Argentina's Lionel Messi، arguably the best footballer in the world.
"I love cycling and I am crazy about football. I simply combined two of my passions،" Mr Francis told the BBC.
He had planned to travel via Pakistan but had to drop the idea because of tense relations with India.
'Football and films'
"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 said.
But he forgot this temporary setback as soon as he entered the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas on 11 March.
"It's the most beautiful country in the world and the people are so welcoming. I spent 45 days in the country، but stayed in a hotel only for two days،" he said.
Mr Francis had only $10 a day to spend but says everywhere he went in Iran، people invited him to stay in their houses and offered him food."My perception about Iran has changed. I realised that you shouldn't form an opinion about a country based on its geopolitics،" he said.
He vividly remembers the dramatic landscapes.
"Cycling became less painful because of the beautiful Iranian countryside. I would definitely go back.
Mr Francis couldn't afford hotels in Azerbaijan and mostly pitched his tent in parks.
"People were nice here as well but they took time to open up to a stranger. I found some Indians living in the capital Baku and stayed with them for a while."

Edited by Rasha Mohamed

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