Argentina fans protest lack of tickets for World Cup final
Hundreds are angry at the lack of ticket availability and high black-market prices for the finals against France.
Doha, Qatar – Hundreds of Argentina football fans have gathered outside FIFA’s main ticketing office with hopes of obtaining tickets for Sunday’s World Cup 2022 final at the 88,000-capacity Lusail Stadium.
Fans of the two-time world champions also said on Friday they were upset by the lack of ticket availability on FIFA’s official sale and resale platforms, adding that they would not leave until they are able to buy tickets.
“We know plenty of tickets have been let go by fans of Brazil, Portugal and Morocco after their teams failed to reach the final, but we don’t know where those tickets went,” Mattias, an Argentinian fan, told Al Jazeera outside the main ticketing office in Doha.
The entrance to the main office was barricaded and guarded by security officials and volunteers, and only those fans who wished to print their electronic tickets were allowed inside the building. There were similar scenes on Thursday outside a Doha hotel where Argentina football federation officials are staying.
“We have told them we don’t have any tickets to offer them but they still insist on staying here,” said a ticketing office staff who asked to remain anonymous.
Mattias, who had been outside the ticket office for four hours, said maintaining a presence is the only way of getting noticed by FIFA and the host country’s organising team.
“If we stay here and protest peacefully, we might hear something but if we leave, no one is going to listen to us,” he said.
Argentina, who qualified for the final after beating Croatia on Tuesday, will take on holders France on December 18.
The travelling fans of the Albiceleste have been providing raucous support for their team during their run in the tournament. Thousands of drumbeating, singing and dancing fans have been present inside stadiums during every Argentina game, and have continued their celebrations outside after every successive win.
Maria Parreira, who has been to every Argentina game thus far, said she was disappointed to see that football’s governing body has done little to help the 30,000 or so Argentinians who have travelled to Qatar for the tournament.
Parreira said most fans who made the 13,000km (8,100-mile) journey from Argentina “burned their savings”, and will go back home with empty pockets because that is what football means to them.
Should their team win an elusive third title, however, it will be worth every penny spent for the die-hard travelling supporters.
“We want to create the same atmosphere and support our team all the way to the end, so imagine if we can’t be inside the stadium after draining our bank accounts just because some people want to rip us off,” a teary-eyed Parreira said, referring to a racket of resellers in the black market, both online and in person at various locations across Qatar.
Despite FIFA’s warnings on reselling tickets out of its official platforms, several thousand tickets have been sold illegally, throughout the World Cup and for the final, as well.
With the growing desperation to watch the all-important final, which is also possibly the last World Cup match of Argentina captain Lionel Messi’s career, individuals have been quoting prices up to eight times the face value of tickets.
One of the hundreds of such resellers, who declined to give their name, was present outside the ticketing office and was seen offering a 3,650 Qatari riyal ($1,000) ticket for 10,000 riyals ($2,800).
Another person, who also declined to give his name, claimed to have various tickets for the final and said he will be selling them at five times the face value because there was a high demand and they were going for such high prices elsewhere.
Fans like Parreira and her friend Juan Pablo, who has travelled from a small village outside Cordoba, Argentina, said they simply cannot pay such high amounts.
Pablo has followed Argentina’s journey since their qualification round matches, and arrived in Qatar in October in order to help fellow travellers.
“I went to Russia , I travelled all over South America to watch them qualify and now that they are in the final, I can’t be there because officials from football federations, sponsors and celebrities are being offered the seats that should have been reserved for us,” Pablo said with a sigh.
The AFP news agency reported that each country that qualified for the quarterfinals has been handed extra tickets for the additional matches the team was playing in.
FIFA has not responded to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on ticket allocation, distribution and resale.