Superfans can travel thousands of kilometres and spend up to the thousands in euros, all to support their national team.
Euronews chatted with some of the most dedicated national team supporters around Europe. They tell us why — and how — they always cheer on their teams no matter the distance.
Euronews spoke to Muhammad Ibn Nofal about what it's like cycling from Egypt to Russia to support his national team.
Tahrir Square to Moscow on a bike
Muhammad Ibn Nufal is not your average middle-aged European superfan who has spent most of his life following his beloved national team across the continent wearing a famous gown or helmet.
The 24-year-old was not even born when his country last made it to a World Cup (the last one was in Italy in 1990). As part of a lucky generation of supporters that will see his country make a rare appearance, Ibn Nufal was determined not to miss when The Pharaohs qualified for the 2018 championship.
However, Ibn Nufal’s way of travelling to see Egypt play is quite original; the young man is cycling all the way to Moscow.
“I’ve always been an ardent football fan and I also have a passion for travelling, witnessing different cultures and meeting new people. So I decided to do both at once,” Ibn Nufal told Euronews.
The trip to Moscow is not his first, in fact, he made another journey across the uncertainty of Africa’s deserts when he followed Egypt to Gabon during the African Cup of Nations last year.
The journey from Cairo to Moscow includes cycling through three continents and more than five countries, including war-torn sites and disaster areas like Syria. But Ibn Nufal was not deterred.
“I did my research and read reviews of many fellow cyclists who went through routes in Syria and said it was safe to travel through it, but the Egyptian authorities advised me against doing that.
“It was a major disappointment for me but after some deep thinking, I decided to take their advice, especially after I was told that it will be too risky and I realized that my journey could be politicised.”
Ibn Nufal prepared for a whole month prior to kicking-off his journey from Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square to Moscow. He started training – which he insists is not a professional cyclist’s training – and did the necessary research on the countries he would be travelling through.
Unlike the citizens of most European and Western countries, Egyptians need to obtain entry visas to many countries; obtaining these visas was an uphill mission for the young ambitious fan.
Both the Egyptian ministries of sports and foreign affairs helped him with much of the logistical needs, without providing any financial assistance. Nonetheless, their interference facilitated his visa applications, which he described as a very difficult process with some Eastern European embassies compared to African ones.
Hows does Nufal finance his trip?
He writes about the places he sees and visits and sells his articles to a number of Egyptian websites. Additionally, he couchsurfers to secure free accommodation in every city he visits.
His originally-planned schedule was to arrive in Moscow on June 7th and after cycling from Egypt to Jordan then flying from Jordan to Sofia, Bulgaria, Ibn Nufal cycled through Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia and is now ready to set foot in Moscow in time with his schedule.
“I do my best to avoid exhaustion. I don’t care how fast I arrive so long as I don’t collapse at any point of my long journey. I never cycle for more than three consecutive days without resting for one day in between,” Ibn Nufal added.
Despite only securing one ticket with the help of the Egyptian Football Association to attend Egypt’s opening game against Uruguay on June 15th, Ibn Nufal is still doing his best to find tickets for the two other group stage games. But for him, it is all about the journey to support and cheer for The Pharaohs that matters the most to him.