Desperate fans turn to illegal hawkers in Qatar for World Cup tickets

DOHA, Dec 5 (Reuters) – Ashraf Ali arrived at Stadium 974 six hours before the Argentina-Poland World Cup match and, in desperation, held up a sign that read: “We need tickets.”

Someone offered one for $2,000, nine times the retail price.

That is too high for Ali, 30, who traveled from Egypt to Qatar to fulfill a dream of seeing Argentina star Lionel Messi play. About 30 minutes before kick-off, he managed to get a ticket for $500 and watch Argentina win 2-0.

Other football players without tickets gather in packed stadiums in Doha during the World Cup as they mingle with hawkers, slowly moving tickets for the matches and known up to ten times.

It seems that the security police, CCTV cameras and laws restricting the behavior in the Arab Gulf states are not discouraged.

“The black market is moving,” a ticket seller from France told Reuters, saying the sale had earned him enough money to pay for his trip to the final, plus a bonus.

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The man, who declined to be named, said he was charging “dedicated fans” a 1,000% markup for tickets to the coveted match featuring stars like Messi and Christiano Ronaldo.

“I (sell for) games where you can get the most money.”

Other experienced businessmen went to Doha to finance the football exhibition, the first in the Middle East. Reuters spoke to about 20 people who said they bought or tried to buy black market tickets using social media platforms or at stadiums.

Fans were also seen exchanging money for passes outside the Al Thumama stadium, where a crowd without tickets wanted to see Morocco in its 2-1 win against Canada.

Organizers on Saturday urged players without tickets to stay away from the stadium, following Thursday and Friday’s games where large crowds tried to get in without tickets.

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The representative of the Latin American ambassador in Doha said that “advertisements of sellers are not very good” in most, if not all, it is dealt with by punishment. The agency’s representatives have not seen anyone arrested or deported for selling tickets illegally, the representative added.

SPECIAL RULES

Qatar passed a special law for the World Cup that gave FIFA the right to sell tickets. Under the law, which was seen by Reuters, passengers were charged up to ten times the face value of tickets sold illegally.

Football officials have warned that it will cancel those found to have been sold outside the venue, while supporters say tickets are already in short supply for the tournament. Enter the time to knock.

“FIFA’s best intentions are to prioritize the safety and security of all players and to enforce a fair pricing scheme for World Cup tickets,” a spokesman told Reuters.

The spokesman said in an emailed statement that FIFA is in constant contact with the Qatari authorities to ensure the implementation of “the necessary measures within the applicable law”.

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Demand will increase at the end of the World Cup, when there are fewer games and more money, and when Qatar ends the requirement for visitors to the country to get tickets for matches.

Outside the official FIFA ticket office in central Doha on Sunday, loudspeakers played a message written on a loop: “No tickets available.”

Argentina fan Federico Criado, 33, said he visits the center every two days, but the screens did not show any tickets for the Argentina game. He has spent hours on FIFA’s online platform looking for tickets to be resold by other fans.

“I think people chose to just sell them outside the platform because they would get more money,” Criado said.

Statement by Charlotte Bruneau and Andrew Mills; Written by Andrew Mills; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

Our principles: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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