Having navigated nearly 2,000km (1,250 miles) of motorways and through city traffic, Beat Studer and his trusty tractor rumbled into Kaliningrad on Thursday having completed an epic World Cup journey to watch the Swiss football team take on Serbia.
Shining brightly under a midday sun, the 1964 vintage crimson tractor pulled into a Kaliningrad Stadium car park having reached the finish line of a 12-day odyssey that began just outside Lucerne and will culminate, Studer hopes, on Friday with a Swiss victory in the Group E showdown.
Studer, who owns a tractor museum, and two friends Werner Zimmermann and Josef Wyer came up with the idea after Switzerland qualified for Russia but decided they would only undertake the adventure if they could do something positive.
They decided they would do the trip for Swiss children’s charities and have so far raised close to CHF20,000 ($20,175).
“With the tractor we have no problems,” explained Wyer, who drove the support van and handled logistics while Studer and Zimmermann took turns at the wheel of the tractor for six hours each day.
“I had the problem with the two drivers, because … they are like children. A man can do something like this one time in his life, so we had really, really good time together,” he said.
“Stupid ideas come only when you are a little bit drunk,” Weir added.
Luckily for the Swiss trio they had abstained on Saturday when the tractor was pulled over by police in Poland just before entering the Russian enclave where Studer was breathalysed for suspected drunk driving.
Finding unconventional ways to travel to the World Cup are becoming as much a part of the event as penalty kicks.
Earlier, a Briton sailed from Bulgaria to Volgograd in a yacht to watch England’s opening Group G clash against Tunisia, while many have biked from near and far.
As strange as getting to the World Cup by tractor may seem, Studer and his friends are not the first – not even for the 2018 World Cup. German fan Hubert Wirth beat them, driving his tractor from Germany to Moscow to catch a glimpse of his national team.
Studer and his friends, however, were content to simply enjoy the ride. “We saw many different landscapes, different kinds of people,” Studer said. “Nobody booed us because we were travelling with the tractor. [The whole experience] was so nice.”