Having a budget of €17 (less than $20), a Russian football fan hitchhiked from Latvia’s Riga to Switzerland with the main intention to see his country’s national football team playing at the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup, which kicks off next month in France.
The football fan, who declined to give his real name but said he could be called Yakin, appeared on Monday morning near a hotel in the Swiss town of Bad-Ragaz, where the Russian team had been accommodated for the training camp.
“I was born in Siberia but I came here hitchhiking from Riga,” Yakin said in an interview with TASS adding that he intended to watch the morning practice of the Russian squad. “I have been hitchhiking for 22 years already.”
“From here I will be travelling to Innsbruck, the city which I really like, then I will go to Monaco, afterwards to Marseilles and then across France following the Russian national team,” he said. “I initially had €17 on me and now I have 12 left.”
“How will I survive on €12? Easily – I will be earning while I travel playing my tamtam [a percussion instrument]. I do this all the time,” he said.
Asked where he usually stops to sleep at night, Yakin, who had a weighty backpack, but no tent, said “wherever I find a place.”
The grey-bearded football fan said he had been following the Russian national team at all major tournaments since 2008.
“My first hitchhike tour was for the 2008 Euro Cup, then it was the 2012 Euro Cup and I was also in Brazil for the [2014 FIFA] World Cup,” Yakin said. “I had no problems attending matches as I was usually donated tickets. I definitely have no tickets at the moment, but I will be dealing with this issue later [at stadiums].”
The Russian national football team, led by head coach Leonid Slutsky, arrived at the training camp in Switzerland on May 24. Before the start of the European biggest football event, held once every four years, the Russian team will play two friendly matches – against the Czech Republic on June 1 in Austria’s Innsbruck, and against Croatia on June 5 in Monaco.
The 2016 UEFA Euro Cup will be held in France between June 10 and July 10 with matches to be played in 10 different locations, namely in Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse.
A total of 24 European national teams qualified for the Euro Cup final tournament in 2016, after the contestants’ format, which was used since 1996, was decided to be extended from 16 to 24 teams.
The contesting teams were divided into six groups and Russia was placed into Group B, sharing it with the teams from England, Wales and Slovakia.