KOLKATA: With all tickets for the relocated England-Brazil Under-17 FIFA World Cup semi-final lapped up by fans, a capacity crowd of 66,600 is expected when the football giants lock horns on Wednesday at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
Football buffs, who logged in to the ticketing section of the official website FIFA.com on Tuesday for buying the e-tickets, were heartbroken to find the two words "sold out".
The frenzy for tickets had started soon after world football governing body FIFA on Monday shifted the match to VYBK from Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati, due to poor ground condition after days of heavy rainfall. FIFA also announced that tickets would only be available online.
While 20,000 netizens had registered at the site at 7.15 p.m., over an hour before the scheduled start of sales at 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday, the number of registrations crossed a whopping five lakh a little after midnight.
"Within five hours all tickets were sold. At one point a little after midnight there were five lakh fans in the queue," said Local Organising Committee (LOC) project director Joy Bhattacharjya.
Around 35,000 tickets priced at Rs 100 flat were put up for public sale.
A member of the organising committee said, besides those sold online to the public, a bulk of the other tickets, including the complimentaries, have already been distributed.
"Almost 80 per cent of the tickets, that is over 52,000, have already been distributed or sold," he said.
West Bengal Sports Minister Aroop Biswas was confident of a full house.
"The tickets were a worry for us. We thank the FIFA and others. We are hoping to see a full house," he said.
Bhattacharjya said because of the short time left, it was decided at 2 a.m. on Tuesday to start the redemption process at 11 a.m.
"We brought the tickets on Monday night by a chartered flight from Guwahati which also flew in the two teams. At 2 a.m., we decided to tell the people to come to the ticket redemption counters from 11 a.m. By 10 a.m. there were 2,000-3,000 people before the counters. So we started the redemption from 10-15 a.m.," he said.
"The fact that only 3,000 people are yet to redeem their tickets, shows it has been as smooth as we could have hoped for," he said.
Bhattacharjya also backed the decision to go for only online sales.
"Had we gone for off-line sales, because of the short notice, there would have been a riot," he said.
Asked why only 35,000 tickets were sold to the public, Bhattacharjya said: "In this tournament, more proportion of tickets have been kept for the public, compared to, say cricket.
"Also we respect our stakeholders, like commercial partners, government, and others. You give them passes, give them complimentaries. And that has been followed in this game as well."
He said 5,000 complimentary tickets have been given to various schools to enable the students to watch the match.
However, despite FIFA categorically announcing tickets would only be sold online for the match, hundreds of fans queued up at the stadium ticket counter, many of them from Monday night, hoping to purchase a ticket as soon as the counter opened.
"I have been standing since 11 p.m. on Monday. But could not get any, as the police said there would be no off-line sales. This is not fair. Many of us, like me, do not have any clue about online tickets," said middle-aged Sudipto Ghosh from Tollygunge.