An extreme Saudi hiker walked across the desert in Saudi Arabia for 55 days to reach Qatar on Saturday to inspire his national team, which will play at the FIFA World Cup 2022 starting later this month.
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Avid football fan Abdullah Al Salmi combined his twin passions — hiking and the Beautiful Game by planning his most ambitious trek yet — a 1,600km walk across the Arabian Desert from his hometown of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Qatar’s capital Doha.
After reaching the Doha Corniche, Al Salmi was greeted by throngs of supporters from across Qatar. Fans congratulated him on his feat while posing for photographs with him under the Saudi flag.
“I have always wanted to attend a World Cup, and with the tournament coming to the Arab world for the first time, I wanted to mark the occasion by walking across the Arabian Peninsula in a show of brotherhood and unity between two neighbouring countries,” Al Salmi told the Qatar2022 website.
Al Salmi, who first developed an interest for hiking while studying in Canada, set off from Jeddah on September 9 to walk across Saudi Arabia’s entire landmass.
The Qatar-Saudi land border at Abu Samra is about 100 km from Doha and Qatari authorities have refurbished the immigration and customs facilities as thousands of Saudi fans are expected to drive in to watch matches.
“I wanted to walk from the Red Sea, from the Jeddah Corniche to the Doha Corniche on the Arabian Gulf. Hiking gives me a sense of freedom and I wanted to share this passion and love with the millions of fans that are eagerly awaiting the first World Cup in the region,” added Al Salmi, a passionate Green Falcons fan.
“I hope that our national team hears of my walk and that it inspires them to do their best in the tournament. I want to show everyone that nothing is impossible and that with hard work and determination, you can do anything,” added Al Salmi.
Saudi Arabia qualified for Qatar 2022, going unbeaten in eight of their nine qualification matches. The Saudis have been drawn into Group C alongside Argentina, Mexico and Poland. They will start their campaign at Lusail Stadium on November 22 against two-time champions Argentina.
“The amazing reception I’ve received has been tremendous. As soon as I crossed the Qatari border, people met me with flowers and food. This World Cup has also been about bringing people together and I hope my journey inspires others to walk towards each other — to cross boundaries, to get to know each other, and break the stereotypes that so many of us in this region have to contend with,” added Al Salmi.
Meanwhile, a Spanish football fan who was walking from Spain to Qatar recently disappeared in Iran, international media reports said.
Santiago Sanchez, 41, hasn’t been heard of since October 1 when he sent friends a picture of himself while entering Iran from Iraq.
Hosts Qatar meet Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium in the opening match of the FIFA World Cup 2022 on November 20.
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