Tammat Bil Khoar: From cycling for Messi to making headlines in Argentina

Tammat Bil Khoar cycled 1003 kilometres for Lionel MessiCollected

Placing bets on anything and everything is common amongst friends. But Tammat Bil Khoar’s case is a bit different. He didn’t place a bet for himself. He made a promise out of his love for a man who is from a land thousands of miles away.

Actually, it wasn’t really a bet. ‘If he does this, I will do it’, he said something along those lines. The ‘he’ Tammat referred to, kept his end of the deal. So, it was now time for Tammat to keep his end of the promise and his friends refused to give him a pass, saying, “You promised it, now do it!”

And so Tammat set off on his journey. For Lionel Messi, the footballer who is from a land thousands of miles away and is an inspiration for uncountable youths across the world, Tammat cycled 1003 kilometres before finally returning home.

Tammat Bil Khoar clicking a selfie with some kids during his nine-day-long journey

The news of Tammat’s cycling for Messi was first published in the 29 December 2022 issue of Prothom Alo. It was later covered by a few other local media. The news of what this Messi fanatic, who is a BBA student of University of Scholars, has done has already reached Argentina.

The national news agency of the South American country, ‘Telam’, has written about Tammat, so has Argentine media ‘TYC Sports’.

A screengrab of the report published on TYC Sports on Tammat Bil Khoar. The report was originally published in Spanish.

Tammat’s story is a big example of the bond of affection that has formed between here and the Latin American country through the wave of support for Argentina in Bangladesh during the Qatar World Cup. Otherwise, why would a youth set off on his bicycle for Messi, a footballer from a faraway land? The bigger question, however, is why did he travel exactly 1003 km?

Tammat answered the question over the phone, “Before the final, I told my friends, they (Argentina) didn’t win in the 2014 final. If it happens this time, I will cycle 1003 km for Messi. Why 1003 km; because the final was the 1003rd match in Messi’s professional career.”

This 23-year-old youth wanted to spread a message through cycling for Messi, “Messi had to play over 1000 matches to win the World Cup. Messi is a big example for all of us to not give up. After such a long wait, he won the World Cup in his last match (at a World Cup). What could be a better example than this of not giving up!”

Tammat said the same thing to the Argentine media, “I always believed in Messi and in the team. They played well, they fought hard and they deserved to win the World Cup.”

TYC Sports used this quote in their report and wrote that this seemed like the words of a fellow Argentine!

Tammat is an Argentina fan, which goes without saying. Although he was born in Chattogram, he is from Tungipara, Gopalganj. His father Neyamot Ali Sikder, a retired police officer, and mother Nur Jahan Begum, a housewife, live in Chattogram. Tammat, who is an under-contract athlete of Bangladesh Police, lives in Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

His love for cycling began in 2016. He has taken part in nearly 75 national and international cycling competitions, even won silver in the 2020 Bangabandhu Bangladesh Games. Tammat also won bronze at the 41st National Cycling competition last year.

He began his 1003 km cycle trek for Messi on 24 December from the Shahpori island in Teknaf. Tammat revealed why he chose that place, “I started my journey from the western most point in Bangladesh- Shahpori island. First day I reached Chakaria, second day Chattogram city, third day Daudkandi, Comilla, fourth day Dhaka, fifth day Tangail, sixth day Jamalpur, seventh day Gaibandha, eighth day Panchagarh and finally on the ninth day I finished my journey in Banglabandha zero point at 11:00am.”

He completed this journey wearing the Argentina football team’s jersey. In the nine days of his journey, he didn’t have to check in at a hotel even once, “In whichever district I made a stop, the local Argentina supporters made arrangements for my food and shelter. I told the Argentinian news media, ‘You don’t know that after you guys, Bangladesh is the country that supports the Argentina football team the most.’”

Tammat Bil Khoar at the Banglabandha Zero Point

TYC Sports published a quote from him in their report which was quite similar, “We celebrated as if our country had won the cup!”

Many from Argentina have knocked him on social media. Some have given a proposition to go cycling together.

Tammat feels, if done, it would be a great initiative, “This will bring a big change in the tourism sector of both countries. Latin Americans would want to travel to Bangladesh. I also want to learn about Argentina, Messi’s country. I want to cycle 2600 km from Rosario to Rio Gallegos. This will help me learn about Argentina’s culture, Argentines will also get to know more about Bangladesh.”

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy