Our names are Laurie Whitwell and Nick Miller. We’re writers for The Athletic. And we’re going to the World Cup.
But we’re taking the scenic route.
We’re going to be spending the fortnight before the first game of the tournament travelling from Athletic HQ in London to Doha, via every mode of transport we can think of: trains, planes, automobiles, buses, boats, bikes, trams, probably those irritating electric scooters at some point.
Yes, it would be quicker to fly, wouldn’t it?
But the plan is to get a sense of what people on the way think about the World Cup, specifically this World Cup, this most unusual tournament, for good and bad… well, mostly bad. Are people excited about the Qatar World Cup? Are they even going to watch it? How much do football fans around the world care about the moral concerns over the hosts?
Some wider questions, too. What are people’s favourite memories of past editions? How does the game impact lives across the globe? Which kit is the best ever? Can we start a conversation by passing a ball to a stranger?
We’ll also be talking to a few World Cup legends. We’ll keep exactly who under our hats for the moment, but we’ll just say that we might be able to ask someone who knows: what’s it like to score the winner in a World Cup final?
We’ll start by going the wrong way: by travelling north to St George’s Park to see where England’s World Cup journey began, then to Wales to find out how their success is transforming the country and keeping its language prominent.
Then to Paris, where Kylian Mbappe’s talent was and is nurtured, to Belgium to see where their golden generation sprang from and to Amsterdam to visit the cradle of Dutch football, Ajax.
Through Germany, where the most widespread and significant anti-World Cup movement seems to be spreading, despite the strong links between Qatar and the country’s biggest club. Then Austria to the home of a World Cup legend, Switzerland to visit FIFA’s base, and Italy, which will be a strange place during the tournament with the Azzurri absent for the second time in a row.
From there, Croatia — finalists four years ago — who have a tricky relationship with their biggest player, Serbia and some of the world’s most fervent fans: how do they feel about this World Cup? Then it’s Slovenia, Bulgaria and Turkey, before a hop over to Saudi Arabia and finally Qatar.
That’s the plan, at least. But we could always change our minds. Where should we go? What should we do? Are we coming to a place near you? Can we come round for tea, please? What music should be on our soundtrack? Which local delicacies might we try? Let us know in the comments below and who knows — we might even take you up on your suggestion.
We’ll be writing a daily diary, explaining what we’ve done that day and what we’ve got planned for the next. There will be other written articles, too, as we speak to interesting people along the way. We’ll be checking in with The Athletic’s range of podcasts. You can also track our journey on The Athletic’s social media channels — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even TikTok.
And of course ours, too. Follow @lauriewhitwell (Twitter), @lauriewhitwelltheathletic (Instagram) and @NickMiller79 (Twitter), @nick_miller79 (Instagram) if you fancy.
And then at the end of it all, we’ll produce a documentary about our trip, put together by Martino Simcik, our videographer, who’ll be joining us on the trip, which will go out on Tifo’s IRL channel. He’s on @Martino_Tifo (Twitter) and @martino_tifo (Instagram).
If all goes to plan we’ll be visiting 17 countries, via at least seven modes of transport, which will take us more than 4,000 miles. Will we make it? Who knows. We invite you to find out by following us as we go. It’s going to be quite a ride.
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- Planes, trains and automobiles: The Athletic’s mad journey to the World Cup
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