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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Football fans are trading tickets for £330 on ‘hundreds’ of illegal WhatsApp groups

DOHA — Argentina’s Latin American derby clash with Mexico is the hottest World Cup ticket in town on Saturday, with thousands of supporters travelling from the region, with or without tickets.

Fervent followers of the game congregating en masse is nothing new, but organisers of Qatar 2022 have done all they can to make ticket touting as tough as possible. Football supporters, however, always find a way.

Most tickets are supplied on QR codes, which cannot be transferred, but there are still paper tickets that can be sold on. Rather than taking the risk of asking around outside stadiums, in a country not afraid to crack down on any rule breaking, Argentina fans have taken matters into their own hands.

A group of 20 Argentina fans who i spoke to enroute to their crucial clash with Mexico only 10 had tickets between them, with the rest furiously glued to their phones.

“We check the groups every 10 seconds,” one supporter says. “At the moment, the best on offer is 400 dollars (£330), even though he told me 200 yesterday.”

The conversation started after the ticket was posted on a WhatsApp group. There are “lots, maybe hundreds” of these groups, with supporters frantically checking each for the best offers.

“I have offered everything I can, but so far it is not enough. Now this game is so important, it is harder to get them but we will all keep trying,” another says, taking a brief break from his phone.

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As one of the free shuttle buses from the Barwa Barahat Al Janoub Cluster accommodation, the cheapest Qatar has to offer and where thousands of South American supporters are basing themselves, approached the metro station one desperate Argentine took more drastic action.

“I’ll give you 100 dollars for your shirt,” he said, to a Fifa security staff member. “You don’t need a shirt it is too hot.”

After the laughter had died down, it was back to the WhatsApp groups.

“Everyone who is here is in at least four or five. This way we won’t get caught.”

Other games still have tickets available on the Fifa resale pages, with several stadiums still having plenty of empty seats visible, despite organisers announcing official attendances to the contrary.

But for this crucial match, where Argentina have to win to get themselves back in contention for the knockout rounds, demand is far outstripping supply. The race to negotiate a ticket sale, via WhatsApp, is on.

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