After 111 days of riding, Dutch cyclist arrives just in time for Qatar World Cup

Three and a half months on a bike for a game of football.

by Jonny Long

photography by Getty Images

Dutchman Laurens Jagt just finished a seemingly endless journey travelling towards a desert abyss of questionable moral standing. I never thought we’d have so much in common.

For Jagt, a 34-year-old from the Netherlands, the past three and a half months, 111 days to be exact, was spent riding the 6,000km to Qatar from Amsterdam for the football (fine, soccer…) World Cup.

Jagt set off on August 1 from the Dutch capital and arrived just in time for the Netherlands’ opening match against Senegal on Monday, November 21.

“I’m just in time for the first game,” Jagt told Hart van Nederland, having made his way south through Europe and then through Turkey en route to the Arabian peninsula.

Football is often described as a universal language, and so Jagt took a ball with him along the way for when he wasn’t pedalling.

“That connection was successful on the way through all those countries,” Jagt said of his spherical companion and how it helped him make friends on his trek. “I started playing football with the people I met and I met so many lovely people then.”

This wasn’t the only meaning of his trip. Jagt undertook the mammoth ride in support of Bike 2 Unite, a project that raises money to help young asylum seekers play sport.

As people from around the world descend on Qatar for one of the biggest sporting events in the world, fans have been left less than impressed with the accommodation on offer, which for 60,000 spectators is little more than a converted (and ventilated) shipping container.

“That is not very cozy or cozy,” Jagt said of his digs, a not-so-glamorous reward after months on the road at a cost of $200 a night.

But he can put up with it. His one wish is to hand the football he carried with him to the Dutch manager Louis van Gaal.  “I hope Louis van Gaal reads this,” Jagt said of his interview with the Dutch publication. “Because I would like to give the football to him. Also as a signal of fraternisation.”