5,730 miles. On a bike. From Mongolia to Manchester. it’s quite the journey that Ochirvaani Batbold is undertaking. The intrepid explorer has so far travelled through China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Croatia. When we caught up with him, he was preparing to conquer Hungary, before taking on Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and France before reaching England. It is well and truly the journey of a lifetime that will culminate in him reaching his Theatre of Dreams – Old Trafford.
Ochirvaani was born in Bayantsogt, Tuv, Mongolia, where he lived until the age of 5 before moving to the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Much of his youth was spent leading a nomadic existence with his grandparents in the countryside. As a child, he would wrestle, run, and enjoy horseback riding through Mongolia’s stunning landscape, where endless green plains and towering mountains that seemed to touch the sky surrounded him. It is also where he would fall in love with football. “This childhood desire to roam freely across the prairie is what I believe connected me to the football field,” says Ochirvaani.
There was never a time when he didn’t have a ball at his feet, dreaming of one day becoming a professional football player. It was one day whilst watching Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov put Liverpool to the sword that his heart would become forever entwined with Manchester United.
Over the past ten years, he has dedicated himself to playing football in the Mongolian Premier League, where he helped Tuv Buganuud FC win the Mongolia Cup and has also played for Bayangol FC and Ulaanbaatar City.
In 2014 Ochirvaani was offered the opportunity of a trial with Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy in the US through an agent. The agent turned out to be a scam artist who stole over £3,000 from Orchirvaani and his family, putting them on the verge of financial ruin.
It was a devasting blow to the family, but one they fought back from, and rather than letting it defeat him, it has encouraged Orchirvaani to live a life without regret.
“I wanted to do something that inspires others, and create beautiful memories that I will never forget.” It is a truly incredible journey that Ochirvaani is on and it was an absolute joy to speak with him as he prepared to take on Budapest in the latest leg of his epic adventure.
This journey is a testament to the depth of my convictions and the lengths I’m willing to go to live out my dreams.
Before this journey, I had never ventured beyond my home country or experienced a bike tour. I was actually inspired by Wayne Rooney and his passion for football to take this challenge on. It is something that continues to drive me on.
Though it began with football aspirations, I decided to taste the essence of my dream through the sweat, strength, and endurance of an athlete. Choosing a bike tour at the last minute, I prepared rigorously in the two weeks leading up to my departure from Ulaanbaatar on May 5th 2023.
What ensued has surpassed my expectations, unfolding as an adventure filled with unexpected encounters, serendipities, and incredible endurance. This journey is a testament to the depth of my convictions and the lengths I’m willing to go to live out my dreams, even if just for a day. The incredible support and encouraging words from many individuals further fuel my energy and determination.
An experience that has been nothing short of amazing.
Over the past decade, I have dedicated myself to football in Mongolia, where I celebrated numerous achievements. I had been competing in the Mongolian Premier League until the previous year, and I decided to take a hiatus from the sport.
This break marked the commencement of my focused preparation for the current journey. During this reflective period, I threw myself into planning the type of trip I envisioned.
Over the last seven months, I’ve covered a distance of over 11,000 km, travelling over 10 countries —an experience that has been nothing short of amazing.
I think my commitment to fitness and football training has proven immensely beneficial so far. I don’t think I would have got very far without it. The uphill terrains and contending with the natural and climatic elements have presented huge challenges, but so far thankfully, they have not been insurmountable.
One of the toughest challenges was actually just the initial planning stages. Also when I was trying to travel from Mongolia to Turkey and had to apply for a Schengen visa, I encountered a setback and was redirected to obtain a visa in Mongolia, which really slowed down my progress. Nevertheless, every day of this expedition introduces me to new places, new faces, and fresh adventures. Every day has been like a dream. Which is what life should be
The prospect of meeting the players and legends of the team is a dream steadily materialising on this incredible journey.
My journey commenced in Mongolia, leading me through China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, and Bulgaria, bringing me to Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. The scenery, the sights, the smells, the sounds. All of this is something that will never leave my mind. I smile thinking of them all. That’s not to say it hasn’t been tough, because it has. Some days it is difficult to keep going and I’ve faced many obstacles. Physically and mentally.
My path from here will take me from Kosovo, Montenegro, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and France before reaching my destination—England. Stepping foot into Europe has been nothing short of amazing. Witnessing football teams in their home stadiums, teams I once only saw on TV, is a surreal experience.
I think the high points have been seeing historical monuments, and incredible landscapes, and making new friends in each country I visit.
What excites me the most though, is the anticipation of approaching the stadium of my beloved team. With every passing day, I draw closer by hundreds of kilometres. The prospect of meeting the players and legends of the team is a dream steadily materialising on this journey.
Lots of friends close to me were huge supporters of Manchester United, and growing up watching their matches on TV, I began to learn more about the players, the club and its history. That helped to build the love I have for them today. It’s a club that transcends football. Even if they don’t particularly like football, everybody worldwide knows who Manchester United is.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, the team had this incredible fighting spirit, a never-say-die attitude, and would always fight until the end. I like to think that I take those values with me on this journey. When things get tough, I keep that in mind and eep going right until the end. Right until the final whistle.
The thought of arriving at Old Trafford keeps me going every single day. I know that so many people must think I’m crazy and that this journey is mad, but when you have a dream like this, it would be mad not to go for it.
All our thanks to the incredible Ochirvaani Batbold.
You can follow his journey on social media here.