How far would you go to watch the World Cup? Would you fly, travel by train, or even drive? Or, would you cycle 2,400 miles across 8 countries? England fans Jamie Marriott and Mitch Jones are doing exactly that.
Die hard Three Lions fans and best friends Jamie and Mitch are cycling from the English South Coast village of Emsworth to Volgograd, Russia, in time for the England v Tunisia match at the World Cup 2018 on June 18.
When the location for England’s Group G opener with the Maghreb nation at Volgograd Arena was announced, the lads decided that booking flights was too easy, and instead resolved to cycle their way over.
Why? Because, like all good England fans, they believe that: “This is our year, we’re going to win.”
Setting off from Jamie’s home village, the pair will pedal to Dover, making their way over to France, where their eye-watering cycle across mainland Europe begins, taking them through Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, before entering Russia via Beograd.
From there, the two will cycle through Southern Russia, along the country’s border with Ukraine to the Banks of the River Volga in time to watch their heroes open their World Cup campaign.
The lads aim to make the trip in around three weeks. But will their cycle last longer than England’s World Cup campaign? The lads, unsurprisingly, are sure Harry Kane and co. are destined for World Cup glory.
“This is our year. We’re gonna win. Next question,” comes Mitch’s nonchalant confidence.
The trip to Russia 2018 is not the pair’s first Jamie and Mitch have a penchant for unconventional travel. They have been to Russia once before, to take part in the Mongol Rally, through some of Russia and Central Asia’s harshest and most unforgiving terrain.
“Russia is a great country, really friendly people really hospitable people. For us, the main thing is go there and experience it yourself. You can’t have anything better than that - having the first hand experience,” Jamie said of the trip, the route of which dips into Mongolia from its starting place in Europe before ending in Ulan-Ude in Eastern Siberia.
Mitch concurred: “Everyone (in Russia) seemed so happy to see us. We were driving through siberia and novosibirsk and we pulled up at the side of the road and before you knew it you had the whole road corwing us, talking to us, offering to stay at their house.
“We were in the middle of nowhere, we didn’t know Russia, we didn’t know we're to go what was happening. They just saw a group of lads in trouble in Russia and they wanted to help. I imagine it will be like that again.
Despite language and cultural barriers, the lads found common ground in the shape of a small pigskin ball.
a few hours ago. doing some cycle to volgograd. all the gear, no idea!! pic.twitter.com/46IBpAJ6CA— Jamie Marriott (@Jamie_Marriott) May 26, 2018
“It doesn’t matter what language you speak, friendships for from kicking this spherical ball about a green field. We had a ball, they wanted to play, we were a united group together,” Jamie says.
With such a Herculean effort ahead of them both, one rightly expects the boys to have meticulously planned out each step of their training regime. Cycling across eight countries is serious business.
The boys should know what their diet and nutritional requirements from painstakingly measuring their carbohydrate to mile ratio. Their bodies should be highly conditioned from pounding the streets at 5 am fuelled by nothing but raw eggs and desire.
What exactly is their secret training regime?
“Nothing,” Mitch meekly admits. “That’s probably our training regime isn’t it,” Jamie adds, glaring at his pint of beer before taking a swig.
Despite the physically demanding prospects of the cycle, the pair have bypassed any real rigorous training for travelling across seven borders in favour of cheeky meetups to discuss football over a few pints.
No training? No problem.
The boys have already completed the Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle - the 874 mile journey the length of Great Britain - and believe the experience will stand them in good stead for three times that.
There is however extra motivation for their latest journey: Jamie and Mitch are cycling to raise money for the Bobby Moore Cancer Research UK Fund, in memory of Mitch’s late football coach and friend Brian Randall, who passed away earlier in 2018.
“I wanted to do something just to help him, to remember him by, so we’re cycling to the World Cup. When we finally get to Volgograd having cycled 2,400 miles, it might be emotional, a little bit,” Mitch admits.
“We’ve both been affected, not only personally but through friends with cancer and we want to do our bit while we’re physically able to do it,” Jamie said of the personal effects of the disease.
“Football brings us together, you don’t even have to speak the same language as each other, as soon as you have a round ball in front of you, it really unites you as friends.”
The fund is named in honour of the late, great World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore, who also lost his life to cancer aged just 57. The lads are sure the fund’s name is a good omen for England’s World Cup chances.
“Absolutely. Course it is! Harry Kane is bringing it back!” they assure.
In 2,400 miles time, we will have a clearer picture of whether they are right or not.
By Danny Armstrong for RT Sport