RIO DE JANEIRO — As World Cup games become more and more important the lack of tickets available to see them is creating dangerous circumstances.
Prior to the Argentina-Nigeria match in Porto Alegre on Wednesday, several Argentinian fans were arrested after stealing tickets from other patrons.
One fan, Alfredo Santos, said he was walking a few meters from the police barrier when a group of wild Argentina fans approached him screaming and jumping up and down. Apparently that was just a diversion to get the man into the melee and ultimately take his money and steal his tickets.
“They came closer, began singing and jumping,” Santos told ZH.com.br. “When I tried to protect myself from all the pushing, they grabbed my tickets.”
Another man was in the line to have his tickets checked so he could pass through the military barrier that separates those with tickets and passes from those without. An Argentina fan asked him for the time, and when he lifted his arm to look at his watch, the man snatched the tickets from his hand and ran off. Similarly, a Nigerian fan had his bag with his ticket in it snatched as he was walking to the stadium.
All three thieves were caught and all of the victims got their tickets and belongings back, but these are just three more examples of how desperate some fans have gotten to watch their teams play live.
Porto Alegre played host to more than 80,000 Argentina fans because the venue is the closest to the Argentinian border. However, 90 percent of those fans came to Porto Alegre without tickets and many were desperate to obtain them. And scalpers are preying on this desperation. In fact, that one man reportedly paid $1,500 to a scalper and learned only upon trying to enter the stadium that the ticket was fake.
“I looked carefully, but I did not know what the original looked like,” Gustavo Gimenez told ZH.com.br. “I bought it without knowing.”
On the secondary market, tickets — especially those involving teams from the Americas — have been going for just under $2,000 in some instances and most fans can’t find tickets for less than $1,000.
SeatGeek noted that FIFA actually had an excess of tickets that were returned by teams and sponsors that were not reallocated, thus making fewer tickets available to the general public.
Consequently, fans have gone to desperate measures to see their teams play live, including storming the media center at Maracana Stadium in Rio. FIFA noted in its security briefing Wednesday night that Argentinian fans had tried something similar in Porto Alegre and were unsuccessful.
As the tournament moves to the knockout stages this weekend, tickets will become even harder to obtain and the prices on the secondary market will continue to escalate.
Even though the patrons who were robbed in Porto Alegre eventually had their items returned, their tales should be a warning to all fans trying to get into games in Brazil. And a message FIFA that it's needs to do a better job allocating its tickets and creating equal access for everyone.
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