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Kerala man cycles to Russia to watch FIFA 2018 World Cup

India may not be participating in the ongoing World Cup in Russia, but that hasn't stopped Indians from celebrating the spirit of football. Just look at this man

T2 Online Newsdesk 19 June 2018, 12:48 PM
Clifin Francis with a bunch of young football fans

Clifin Francis with a bunch of young football fans Image: Facebook

A football-crazy fan from Kerala has cycled all the way to Russia to watch the tournament and realise his dream of meeting Argentina's football captain Lionel Messi.

Twenty-eight-year-old Clifin Francis flew to Dubai from Kerala on February 23, bought a cycle, took a ship to the port city of Bandar Abbas, the capital of Hormozgan province on the southern coast of Iran, before embarking on his cycling odyssey to Russia.

"I am very happy. It was a four-month-long journey," Francis says from Tambov, a countryside town in Russia.

He says he had bought a ticket for the France-Denmark match on June 26, and was waiting to watch it with bated breath.

"Every day you meet new people, see new landscapes, new culture..." he says, adding both good and bad experiences came his way during the journey. Francis says though all his papers, including visa, were in order, he was denied permission to enter Georgia through Azerbaijan, which forced him to take an alternative route.

"I felt sad at their behaviour as a German cyclist was allowed to take the route. But there were times when I saw the goodness in human beings as people whom I had never met gave me shelter, the warmth of their homes and offered food," the software engineer says.

People whom I had never met gave me shelter, the warmth of their homes and offered food. Clifin Francis

Football has always been his first love and watching the World Cup in person, a long-cherished dream.

After getting his BTech degree, Francis worked at Infopark in Kakkanad, Kochi for some time, before taking up a job as a Mathematics teacher at a coaching school, Saji, his paternal uncle says.

"He was always a hard worker and slogged at the coaching class without taking any leave and saved as much as he could to have his dream fulfilled. Relatives also chipped in (with money)," Saji says.

Francis says he celebrated his birthday with the residents of Maymeh in Iran, enjoying the hot kebabs they served with Istak, a local drink —an experience he will never forget.

The local people there are great fans of Indian filmstars such as Raj Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty, while the younger ones especially enquired about Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai, says Francis.

"When I went into a house, the family was watching an old Raj Kapoor starrer," he says.

Francis, who hopes to reach Moscow by June 21, says it is his long-cherished dream to meet Messi.

When asked if he would be able to make it come true, he says, "I have reached this far. I am an optimist. My desire is to meet Messi. (I) Don't know if it is possible... I am a diehard fan of his."

Football fans in Kerala have painted roads, private vehicles and public transport buses in the colours of their favourite teams. Fans sporting jerseys with images of their heroes can be spotted even in small towns of the football-crazy state.

Read more:

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar — Indian sport stars take their pick

FIFA 2018 World Cup: Tweeple troll Neymar for apparently overreacting against Switzerland

FIFA 2018 World Cup: Did celebrations in Mexico really trigger an earthquake?

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