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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

FIFA U-17 World Cup: Fans go missing in ‘sold out’ Kochi and Goa

The FIFA U-17 World Cup tickets for the opening games of the tournament in Kochi and Goa have been sold out, according to the Local Organising Committee but there were thousands of empty seats in both venues during the Brazil vs Spain clash in Kochi and Germany vs Costa Rica encounter.

fifa-u17-world-cup-2017 Updated: Oct 08, 2017 18:02 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Kochi
Tickets have been sold out at venues for the FIFA U-17 World Cup but there have been plenty of empty seats at Kochi and Goa which hosted the Brazil vs Spain game and the Germany vs Costa Rica encounter.
Tickets have been sold out at venues for the FIFA U-17 World Cup but there have been plenty of empty seats at Kochi and Goa which hosted the Brazil vs Spain game and the Germany vs Costa Rica encounter. (Akarsh Sharma Twitter)

It couldn’t have been a bigger game than Brazil vs Spain to get the FIFA U-17 World Cup underway in Kochi on Saturday.

Fans gathered hours before the opening match here in Kaloor as the excitement was palpable.

Due to security concerns, the capacity of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium had been reduced to 29,200. Given Kerala’s love for football, it was hardly surprising that tickets for the opening game had been sold out more than a week before the game.

It was expected that the official attendance for the Brazil vs Spain game would be very close to the official capacity for the World Cup, especially given the fact that not many tickets or passes had been handed out to VIPs and promoters, according to All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel.

“It’s a FIFA tournament and we cannot give out random tickets,” Patel had told reporters in a press conference in New Delhi on September 26 when asked about the volume of complementary tickets/passes handed out to VIPs/stakeholders of the tournament.

However, only 21,362 fans, almost 8,000 less than the official capacity, turned up for the high-voltage clash in Kochi on Saturday, leading to question marks about how many tickets had actually gone on sale for Saturday’s match.

Similarly, in Goa, despite tickets being ‘sold out’, 12,329 fans were in attendance for the Germany-Costa Rica and Iran-Guinea games. The official capacity of the Fatorda Stadium for this tournament is 16,000.

Did a large number of fans, who had bought tickets, forget to turn up for the games? If tickets had indeed been sold out, and not many complementary tickets/passes had been handed out, how did close to 8000 fans go missing in Kochi for arguably the biggest group stage game of the tournament?

Hindustan Times reached out to AIFF chief Praful Patel, who asked this reporter to speak to Javier Ceppi, tournament director of the LOC.

Ceppi sent the following statement in response to Hindustan Times’ queries: “All the tickets that have been put up for sale, are the maximum number of tickets that can be sold at each venue discounting below mentioned commitments. When a venue appears sold out, it reflects the position of tickets that have been put out for sale.

“Discounting the contractual obligations with the Hosting Association, all the participating teams, all the 13 commercial partners of the Tournament, the host broadcaster, the signatories of host city, stadium and training site agreements and other stakeholders with which there are contracts with regards to the Tournament, to provide tickets.”

Minutes later, the LOC sent a press release carrying the same statement.

The LOC chief didn’t reveal the number of tickets which had gone on sale in the said venues, nor the number of tickets handed out to the stakeholders mentioned. His statement, however, does indicate that a significant number of complementary tickets/passes had been given out, contrary to the claim made by AIFF head Praful Patel on September 26.

First Published: Oct 08, 2017 17:53 IST

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