For Saudi fan, street to World Cup is a desert trek

SAUDI ARABIA : The concept hit Abdullah Alsulmi earlier this yr, whereas he was watching a tv present through which a senior Qatari official promised an “distinctive” expertise on the upcoming World Cup. His pleasure constructing, the 33-year-old Saudi remembers considering: “I’ll go to Doha it doesn’t matter what, even when I’ve to stroll!” It was an unlikely starting to what has change into an audacious journey dismissed by a few of Alsulmi’s personal relations as “loopy”: a two-month, 1,600-kilometre (1,000-mile) solo trek from his native Jeddah to the Qatari capital. Alsulmi says the journey, faithfully documented for his 1000’s of Snapchat followers, is supposed to focus on regional enthusiasm for the primary World Cup within the Center East—which Saudi officers have pitched as a milestone “for all Arabs”.

“We need to assist the World Cup,” Alsulmi instructed AFP sooner or later final week as he sheltered from the noon solar close to roadside shrubs within the city of Al-Khasrah, 340 kilometers southwest of Riyadh. Carrying a wide-brim hat and a backpack to which he’d affixed Saudi and Qatari flags, he stated: “I contemplate myself like a Qatari who may be very on this World Cup and its success.”

Solar and scorpions

Alsulmi has expertise with prolonged treks in Canada and Australia, the place he used to reside, but these pale compared to the rigours of traversing the Arabian Peninsula. He sometimes units out at dawn and walks till 10 or 10:30 am, however then the warmth forces him to interrupt for a number of hours earlier than resuming within the afternoon and persevering with till sunset. Often he walks at night time to keep up his purpose of round 35 kilometers per day. To maintain his load mild, Alsulmi subsists on meals he should purchase at petrol stations, typically rooster and rice, whereas showering and washing his garments at mosques. His social media posts seize particulars of life on the path, from the mundane to the menacing: his nightly seek for a spot to sleep, and the time he eyed a scorpion dozing dangerously near his tent.

He additionally information conversations with Saudis he meets alongside the way in which, a lot of whom provide snacks and juice to maintain him going. “There are moments of ups and downs, however once I meet folks and listen to these candy phrases—‘We’ll observe you in your account and assist you’—this encourages me to complete,” he stated. Straying from the primary roads as typically as he can, he says he has been rewarded with a style of the numerous surroundings on provide within the kingdom—one thing he didn’t absolutely admire earlier than. “Strolling from Jeddah to Doha, each 100 kilometers is completely different. I imply, the primary 100 kilometers there are sand dunes, then mountains, after which comes empty land, then farms,” he stated. “I’m going by all terrains in a single nation in two months. This can be a lovely factor.”

A ‘easy’ sport

Alsulmi hopes that by posting about his expertise, he can encourage different Saudis to contemplate trekking by their homeland. “Once I do that, I need to convey to people who mountain climbing and strolling is a wonderful sport, even when the climate is tough right here in Saudi Arabia, even when the terrain is tough. We are able to do it,” he stated. “It’s a sport for easy folks. You solely want a bag and some easy issues, and a tent and nature.” If all goes in keeping with plan, Alsulmi will arrive in Doha in time for Saudi Arabia’s opening showdown in opposition to Argentina on November 22. Will probably be a second of divided loyalty, since Argentina is his favourite group. 4 days later, he has a ticket for the Inexperienced Falcons’ match in opposition to Poland. His hopes are excessive for a Saudi squad that has now certified for six World Cups however superior to the knockout stage simply as soon as, throughout its 1994 debut. “This yr we’ve got good gamers. The coach is the good French coach (Herve) Renard,” he stated. “We anticipate and hope that this yr the group will ship an distinctive efficiency.”—AFP



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