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Fifa World Cup: Without tickets, but not left out

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-06-2014 Shrenik Avlani

Sao Paulo: On a day when a Sao Paulo taxi driver found 40 tickets for the semi-final game in Arena Corinthians left behind by a bunch of Mexican fans in his cab, Mitu Burman Roy, a British citizen of Indian origin, was walking around the defunct ticketing centre at the stadium looking for a ticket to the England-Uruguay game.

Roy planned his six-month long South American backpacking trip three years ago. On the road for about four months now, and having passed through Costa Rica and Chile, he landed in Sao Paulo last week in time for the World Cup.

Roy was often without an Internet connection during his travels, and wasn’t able to buy any tickets when Fifa (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) made them available online.

On Friday night, he got lucky.

At a bar full of English fans in downtown Sao Paulo, Roy scored a ticket—for $270—for England’s second match in the group stage, to be played at the Arena Corinthians in the city on 19 June. Now he will buy an overpriced English team shirt, join the Barmy Army, and head for the star-studded game which may well decide England’s fate—or it’s rival Uruguay’s—both teams having come off first-game defeats.

Not everyone is as lucky as Roy. The cheapest tickets for international fans sold by Fifa cost $90 while for Brazilians the price was set at $60. The discounted price for Brazilian students and senior citizens was $30. According to media reports and Fifa.com, tickets of most high-profile games have already been sold out. Thousands of fans have landed in the 12 World Cup venues from all over the world, even India, without tickets in the hope of finding one. But there’s none to go around.

Sriharsha Reddy, an Infosys employee based in New York, caught a lucky break when the company asked him to relocate to Sao Paulo for six weeks during the World Cup. He has been trying to get a ticket for a high-profile match in the city. No luck.

So he did the next best thing, and got his fix at the Fan Fest. Located on the giant downtown boulevard called Vale do Anhangabau, the Fan Fest is a gated area with big screens, live performances, food and beer—a refuge for the ticketless. Entry is free to the Fan Fest, though food and drinks are steeply priced.

“I want to watch at least one Brazil game in Sao Paulo,” said Reddy sporting a yellow Brazil jersey and surrounded by three friends at the Fan Fest.

Willing to pay as much as $400 for a ticket to one of the high-profile games here, Reddy said, “It’s very frustrating trying to buy a ticket now. There is no official resale of tickets and there are so many scamsters around. I am checking with all my friends in Brazil to get something. If I don’t get anything soon enough, I will buy a ticket for the Belgium versus South Korea game, which is still available on the Fifa website.”

For now, the Fan Fest is his home.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Reddy said. “I have seen several Indian Premier League and international cricket games in Bangalore. But the Fan Fest was something very different from it all. It is the craziest place to watch football.”

Hundreds of nationalities are represented at the Fan Fest—Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, the US, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Germany, England—they are all here.

Nicolas Perrotta and Francisco Silva, friends from Buenos Aires, Argentina, introduce themselves as football professors. They coach football to children, and act as scouts for local clubs back in their city. They have tickets for two games, but are depending on the Fan Fest for the rest of the time.

They believe it’s important for Argentinian fans to be present in Brazil when their team is playing, inside or outside the stadium. “We are definitely going to go far in the tournament,” Perrotta said. “We will be outside the stadium shouting, singing and flying our flags. Our team needs to know that we are behind them and believe in them.”

“Ticket or no ticket, we won’t miss the World Cup,” Silva said.

Meanwhile, the taxi driver, 43-year-old Adilson Luiz da Cruz, returned to the hotel where he had dropped the Mexican fans and handed the tickets back.

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