- A soccer fan who was trekking from Spain to Qatar ahead of the World Cup has gone missing, says his family.
- Santiago Sánchez was last heard from over three weeks ago, a day after he crossed into Iran.
- Sánchez’s reported disappearance comes amid widespread protests against the Iranian government.
A soccer fan who was trekking more than 4,300 miles from Spain to Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has gone missing in Iran, according to his family.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, per ESPN, the parents of Santiago Sánchez, an experienced trekker and former paratrooper, said their son had not been heard from since the day after he crossed into Iran from Iraq three weeks ago.
Prior to crossing into Iran, Sánchez, 41, had trekked through 15 countries over the last nine months and had been sharing his journey on Instagram.
He had planned to arrive in Qatar in time for Spain’s first match at the World Cup, on November 23.
”We are deeply worried. We can’t stop crying, my husband and I,” his mother, Celia Cogedor, said, according to ESPN.
Sánchez’s family last heard from him in an audio message on October 2, a day after he crossed into Iran.
In the audio message, Sánchez said he was planning to go to Iran’s capital, Tehran, to take part in a television interview. He then planned to travel to Bandar Abbas, a port in southern Iran, to take a boat to Qatar.
Sánchez’s parents reported him missing on October 17, according to ESPN.
“After a few days, we didn’t worry about him not posting; it matched what he had said,” his mother said. “But after eight or nine days, my daughter and his closest friends, we already began to think that we had to report his disappearance.”
According to ABC News Spain’s Foreign Ministry said it had no information on Sánchez’s whereabouts, adding that the Spanish ambassador to Tehran was dealing with the matter.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Sánchez’s reported disappearance comes amid widespread protests against the Iranian government, which were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran in September.
Amini died suspiciously after being arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly not wearing a hijab properly.
The unrest, according to several media outlets, is the worst Iran has seen in more than a decade.