Destination Qatar - One Man’s Altruistic Journey to Doha
The majority of people travelling to Qatar for the FIFA 2022 World Cup will reach the tiny Arab nation by plane, maybe by car from neighbouring countries, or possibly even by boat. In the main, journeys will take from a few hours to a day in travel time. Most journeys will be spent seated with time punctuated by duty-free trips, maybe a jaunt to a departure lounge cafe or at a stop along the road. And, for most, purchasing plane tickets or arranging alternative passage is something to do once World Cup tickets finally go on sale. However, for one man, the journey to Qatar has already started…
Santiago Sanchez Cogedor - A Man on a Mission
Santiago Sanchez Cogedor from Madrid began his journey to Qatar four days ago. He plans to arrive in Doha just in time for the World Cup kickoff, where he hopes to see his team, Spain, victorious on the field. More so, he hopes to see La Roja lift the Cup for the second time in their history; the last time the World Cup trophy was in Spanish hands was in 2010 in South Africa. And who knows, the Spanish team is chock full of young, exciting players, and this last year has seen some excellent performances from the squad. The team reached the Euro2020 semi-finals in July 2021, only to be knocked out by the tournament winners, Italy. They also reached the finals of the UEFA Nations League 2020/21 in October 2021, only to be pipped to the post by France. And, they topped their 2022 World Cup qualifiers group to book their tickets to Qatar this November. Maybe, just maybe, Santiago's dream will come to fruition, and he will be in Doha to see it happen. But, seeing Spain hold aloft the World Cup trophy is not Santiago's main ambition for his epic trip to Qatar, which, incidentally, won't involve any other mode of transport other than his feet.
The adventurer from Spain is walking from Madrid to Qatar, a journey that will take him over 7,000 km over the next ten and a half months, through fifteen countries, through a multitude of landscapes, from green and forested plains to hot deserts, from coastal paths to mountainous passes. He will pass modern metropolises and towns, rural villages and poverty-stricken shanties, meeting people from all walks of life. The purpose of this monumental trek is to deliver several messages along the way, to inspire and motivate not just the people he meets but anyone who follows or reads about his journey. He hopes, by his actions, to encourage people to care more for their environment and those around them - creating a 'chain of favours'. Along his route, he will be picking up waste, planting trees and volunteering at as many places in need as possible, such as charities, hospitals, schools, orphanages, etc. Santiago hopes to work with schools, foundations, and other entities and groups along the way to clean up their surrounding environments, plant trees and help others in need. Underlying his aims for the trip, Santiago also aspires to show people that life is about more than material aspirations; he will be travelling on foot, with limited possessions, sleeping in a tent and working for food and any additional necessities.
Santiago is no stranger to this type of adventure, having cycled from Spain to Saudi Arabia in 2019. Football is again the reason for the trip, but it turned into something more over the months he was away. He filled his time volunteering at orphanages, NGO's, hospitals and eventually at a refugee camp in Greece, organising football tournaments and teaching boxing. His exploits caught the attention of several charities and organisations, including the Sports Union of his home town. They are now helping him to deliver his chain of favours even further.
The World Cup 2022 Legacy
In the spirit of football and the World Cup, Santiago's mission epitomises so many of the values FIFA holds dear, particularly the power of football to bring people together and make a positive impact on society. FIFA is a passionate advocate of using football as a platform for change.
Qatar, as hosts of the 2022 World Cup, has been keen to ensure that its tournament leaves a legacy of tangible social, economic, and environmental changes that cross borders and are inclusive and equitable - a formidable undertaking. As such, the number and breadth of projects and people working to achieve those aims not just in Qatar but across the globe as part of the 2022 tournaments reach is astounding. To have football fans and those coming to the 2022 games share their aims and embody the spirit of football is the icing on the cake for those in Qatar organising the tournament. Santiago's quest shows the solidarity that football can foster and how just one person can be the catalyst for change.
"Good luck on your journey, Santiago, and we look forward to seeing you in Doha!"