Saturday 26 November 2022, 09:00

French duo cycle 7,000km from Paris to support Les Blues at Qatar 2022

  • Gabriel Martin and Mehdi Balamissa made ‚life changing journey’

  • Four weeks cycling in the Arabian desert identified as a highlight

  • Duo follow in cycle tracks of an Argentinian quartet who cycled 10,000km from South Africa

Frenchmen Gabriel Martin and Mehdi Balamissa arrived in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup™ after a ‘life-changing’ 7,000km cycle ride from Paris to Doha.

It took the duo three months to ride from the Stade de France to Lusail Stadium – where they hope France will retain the World Cup on 18 December.

Speaking on their arrival in Lusail just days before the tournament, Martin said: “It’s amazing to be here outside Lusail Stadium, where we hope France will win the World Cup for the third time – after claiming their first title at the Stade de France in 1998. It’s been a life-changing journey that took us to some amazing places like Istanbul, Petra and Jerusalem.”

French soccer fans Gabriel Martin (center L) and Mehdi Balamissa (center R), who cycled from Paris for the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament, arrive in Doha

Martin, a content producer, said: “It was not an easy journey. We faced many mechanical issues with our bicycles and had to battle injury and fatigue – but those hardships made completing the journey even more special.”

The pair came up with the idea to ride to Doha after travelling from France to Italy for a UEFA Nations League match last year. Encouraged by their experience, the duo made it their goal to ride all the way to Qatar for the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world. 

Documentary filmmaker Balamissa said: “We love football – and we also love riding our bicycles. We know they offer a great way to travel because you can cover great distances and take your time to enjoy your surroundings. It was a long trip – but thanks to the strength of our legs, we created memories that will last a lifetime.”

French soccer fans Gabriel Martin (center R) and Mehdi Balamissa (center L), who cycled from Paris for the Qatar 2022 World Cup

Riding over mountains in Turkey and across the Arabian desert were particularly memorable, said Balamissa.

“We were pedalling for four weeks in the desert and it was completely fascinating. Just listening to myself describe the journey sounds unbelievable – but the welcome and hospitality we experienced along the way made it worthwhile. It has been mind-blowing. Even though we knew Doha and the World Cup were our final destination, we refused to get excited until we crossed the border.”

Martin and Balamissa are the latest intrepid adventurers to complete extreme journeys to Qatar for the World Cup. Saudi adventurer Abdullah Alsulmi walked 1,600km from Jeddah to Doha in 55 days while Argentinean quartet – Lucas Ledezma, Leandro Pighi, Silvio Gatti and Matias Vercesi – cycled to Qatar from South Africa, a journey of 10,000km in 177 days.

At the end of this incredible journey, Gabriel and Mehdi were invited to meet Didier Deschamps, Head Coach of France and his staff. The world champion congratulated the two heroes and offered them both a signed jersey.