How We Got The Idea
During the 2014 Football World Cup, watching the electricity in the stadiums hosting the FIFA World Cup matches on TV, made me wonder how thrilling it would have been to be there in the stadiums, sinking in the atmosphere, mingling with football lovers all around the world and watching the best football players of the globe doing what they do best in the field. But a thought rushed into my mind, how a middle class boy with a mediocre job would ever be able to afford to watch the biggest tournament in the world out there from the stands! That thought brought an abrupt end to my momentary excitement.
Then, a few days after the World Cup, I was watching a reality TV Quiz show in Bengali, hosted by our own DADA (Sourav Ganguly, DADAGIRI), where an elderly couple had come to participate. This couple (more than 60 years together) had just come back from Brazil, after watching the legendary thrashing of the home team (7-1) in the hands of the eventual world champions Germany in the semi-final. This had been their 9th World Cup together watching from the stands. I was awed. They were not millionaires! Just the dream had taken them that far in spite of all the hardships they had to endure, being from a middle class background. I too started dreaming!
4 years later, that dream of mine is getting fulfilled and even got expanded to include World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
It was September 2017. I was overjoyed when I booked the tickets to watch FIFA World Cup Matches of Germany (vs Guinea) and Spain (vs North Korea) on my birthday in Kochi. I was posted in Trivandrum and the prospect of watching a couple of FIFA World Cup matches was too mouth-watering to miss, even though it was in Kochi (and teams were U-17). Little did I imagine, I would get to be a part of something much bigger within a few days’ time.
My close friend Srijon came to Trivandrum on 24th September and stayed with me for 2 weeks. We went to Varkala on the penultimate day of his flight back to Kolkata and had a gala time there. On the way back, we were talking about Football and one thing led to another and BAM! We started arguing.
We had a bet on the potential cost of travelling to Russia and watching the FIFA World Cup from the stands. With my limited knowledge I predicted it to be more than INR 2 lakhs and Srijon was more on the lines of INR 1 lakh. To settle the bet, we called Arindam, who, supposedly, had done a thorough research on this. Arindam agreed with Srijon and to prove it, he showed me the results of his research. They were right. With some planning, the total cost can easily be kept within a budget of 1-1.2 lakhs. I lost the bet!
Arindam had already applied for the tickets in the 1st Round with 2 of our friends Sayan and Prithwiraj and the hope instilled in me(to join them) was shattered. Then, a couple of days later, Arindam got the confirmation that the existing application can be revoked and a new application can be placed with updated details. FIFA allows 4 individuals under 1 application and there were four of us. It was meant to be! I did lose the bet, but I gained an opportunity of being a part of the biggest sporting event in the world. But we weren’t totally prepared for what was coming!
How We Applied For the FIFA World Cup Match Tickets
FIFA had organized the Tickets Sales into 3 major phases:
The First Phase was scheduled while the World Cup Qualifying stages were underway. So the applicants, if opting for a Group Stage Ticket had to select them blindly. However, there was another option to opt for matches of a single country, where the applicant would receive tickets of the concerned team for all of their group matches and the knockout rounds if they progress.
The Second Phase was scheduled after the 32 teams qualified and the draw for the Group Stage was done. So the applicant could select the matches he wanted based on the fixtures.
The First and Second Phase were further categorised into two stages each:
Random Selection Draw: All applicants are needed to select their matches, seats and provide self and guest details (Passport number, DOB etc). Once the window is closed, a lottery will decide the allocation of the matches based on the number of applications for each match.
If the number of applications allocated in the first round to a group match is 10,000 and number of applications for that match is 8000, then all the applicants will be allocated the tickets for that match.
If the number of applications allocated in the first round to the Final is 10,000 and number of applicants for that match is 2,000,000, then there will be a lucky draw to select the applicants which generates odds of only 1%.
Note: 1 application can have up to 4 members. Therefore, 10,000 applications might be somewhere around 30,000 in average
First Come First Served: This Round was more of a Tatkaal Service of IRCTC (if you are from India, you know this). All ticket-seekers were given an open time window to try and enter into the Website to book the tickets. High traffic was experienced, but at least this round was not dependent on some lottery.
ROUND 1 (14th September 2017-12th October 2017)
4 of us applied for the following tickets in the first round:
Quarter Final in Kazan
Semi Final in St Petersburg
Final in Moscow (Luzhniki)
One setback which we faced was we did not have a Credit Card which had a limit of INR 2 lakhs or more (which would be the total cost for 4 individuals for the 3 matches). So we had to contact our respective banks and ‘bank’ on them to confirm that our Savings account would be able to handle the Direct Debit. For clarification, we did reach out to the FIFA Ticketing Help Centre as well. Here is a recording of one of such calls.
So we went ahead with one account where the other 3 had transferred their share and we submitted our application with all details.
Once the Random Selection Draw was over, we received the following mail. Though this bogged us down, we were full of hope as the First Come First Served Round was fast approaching, and we started preparing for it.
ROUND 2 (16th November 2017-28th November 2017)
We were 4 guys from 4 cities (New Delhi, Kolkata, Trivandrum and Amsterdam). And since the First Come First served Round promised to be an internet speed game, we appointed Sayan, from Amsterdam to go in for the kill.
Though Sayan had already logged in to his FIFA account, the three of us also were ready in front of our PCs, mobile phones to jump into the website.
The window started and Sayan was put into an online queue which we were not aware of, at that point. However, all 4 of us were in a Google Duo Conference and waiting patiently for the Walking Man to reach his destination.
It took almost 3 hours for Sayan to get redirected to the Website and chaos started. He started putting whatever was available into the Cart. When we selected a semi-final, the status of the tickets changed to ‘Sold Out’. Slowly, but surely, all the Category 2 and Category 3 tickets were found to be sold out. Only few group matches which we didn’t want to opt for were there and a few Category 1 tickets were still available which were out of our budget.
All the knockout matches were sold out on the 1st day of the Window and this time we were well and truly disappointed that we missed our chance!
Round 3 (5th December 2017 to 31st January 2018)
As December passed through, we didn’t talk to each other much regarding the tickets. Most of our hopes were gone. Meanwhile, the Group stage draw was done and the schedule was released. We looked at those from a ‘glorious chance missed’ point of view. But as the end of the window drew nearer, we started talking again and this time we applied for the Random Selection Draw again with a different plan. All 4 of us applied this time for different matches. 2 round of 16 matches each applied by Sayan and me, a quarter final by Prithwiraj and a Semi-final by Arindam.
However, once the results were out, we got to know we were unsuccessful again!
ROUND 4 (13th March 2018 to 3rd April 2018)
Around the start of March, there was a discussion among the 4 of us and we got to know that Sayan’s PhD got extended which forced him to opt out (though not getting the tickets repeatedly maybe played a part). Even Prithwiraj opted out with some personal issues and then there were two!
Being tumbled by this reduction of our team to a half, we were reluctant to go forward in the 4th Round. However, a series of good matches in the UEFA Champions League reignited our hopes to an extent and we decided to go for it.
Though our excitement had taken a hit, we left no stones unturned this time. We logged in 1 day before the window to book the tickets started and we had prioritised our matches beforehand which didn’t include the quarter final or semi-final which might increase our chances.
Category 3 tickets for England vs Belgium (final group match of Group G) were our primary target and our plan revolved around it. We had a few options in mind including catching at least 1 knockout match. The only constant in our plan was the budget (INR 60,000).
Both of us were thrown into the queue one hour before the window started. We kept waiting as the familiar walking man continued his super-slow walk!
Our estimated waiting time of around 1 hour gradually increased to 2 hours (window started at 10 AM CET) with the walking man still needing more than an hour to reach his destination! So what remaining hopes we had, were fading away into oblivion.
At around the 3 hour mark, Arindam was able to get in. We were overjoyed to find that the tickets to our primary target were still available though the tickets were for Category 2. Without thinking a bit, we selected another Group League Match (Denmark vs France) and a Round of 16 Match and put them in the cart.
The next challenge was to pay for the items in the cart. Once Arindam was redirected to the Payment Gateway, he provided the details of his Credit Card and waited for the OTP.
The OTP never came. We were still hopeful to find that we were provided with another Payment option. We proceeded with the Payment Gateway again and this time I was prepared with my Debit Card, mildly confident as it was used in an international transaction before. In the meantime, Arindam transferred another INR 20,000 to my account immediately through UPI.
The details were entered, OTP provided and we were on our track to achieve our dreams!
The payment gateway stopped loading at last! But the notification “Transaction failure” well and truly devastated us. We were excruciatingly close! Our heads dizzy, hearts paining with a tinge of lost hope and desire! But still holding on!
Arindam, being redirected to the Tickets selection page started selecting the matches again. This time the system threw an error that the ‘Tickets you selected have conflicting dates’. This is the error shown when you try to book two tickets at different locations for the same dates. This arouse some confusion among us as Arindam clambered around for other available tickets and clicking on ‘Add to Cart’ wherever possible.
Then I received an sms from my bank. Never have I been so happy to receive an SMS which said Rs. 69783.13 has been deducted from my account. Then Arindam scampered around the website to go to the My Tickets section.
Indeed! The Tickets were booked. We finally made it!
I was basking in the happiness of our success to book the tickets when I received a call from Arindam 10 minutes later. He was speaking in a hurried voice, that while scampering through the Website for tickets, he had added one Quarter final Match to the cart and apparently, the FIFA Website was allowing us to proceed to the Payment Gateway. He asked me if there was any money left in my account for us to proceed with this. Somehow, I did have the exact amount which was required for us to go through this transaction. Arindam went forward and we got the tickets to the Quarter Final as wee, which was a bonus!
Finally, we were armed with the Tickets and looking forward to plan our journey to Russia! We proceeded with Booking our Flight tickets(link to Flight tickets article) next.
How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Ticket To FIFA World Cup Game
Here are the ticket prices to all the matches put up for sale.
Category 4 tickets were reserved for Russian Citizens only (Quite cheap eh? 1 Ruble=1.17 INR). All the other categories were available to ticket-seekers all around the world.
The Category 3 tickets were behing the goal, Category 2 ones in the diagonal stands and the Category 1 were the stands with a horizontal view of the field (arguably the best seats in the house). An illustration is provided below:
As the World Cup started, it was noted that few of the group games were half-empty, most of which were the Category 1 stands.
Maybe a better idea would have been to select the matches with relatively lesser following and convert few seats from Category 1 to Category 3, so that they would have been much more affordable and might not have gone empty.
Tips And Tricks To Get The FIFA World Cup Match Tickets
To follow are some tips and tricks, which will help in applying for FIFA World Cup 2022 tickets:
- Apply for match tickets through Official FIFA Website. There are options to book tickets through third party applications and World Cup packages. But booking through the FIFA Official Website is cheapest and safest.
- FIFA allows one person to apply for a maximum of 3 additional guests. Please don’t bank on the Random Selection Draw if you are more than 4 people (as 1 group might be selected, the other, not). Go for the First Cum First Serve Rounds.
- One can delete an application for the Random Selection Draw and apply again within the allotted period. So don’t panic if you have missed some details or want to change the matches.
- Getting the Ticket for the Final is the toughest as most applicants will apply for it. So the probability is least for successful allocation in the Random Selection Draw. It might be better to apply for the Semi-Finals or Quarter-Finals in the Random Selection Draw and go full tilt for the Final in the First-Cum-First-Served Round.
- It is better to be logged into the FIFA account at least few hours prior to the start of the First Cum First Served Rounds. The queue begins exactly 1 hour before and can take up to 4 hours for you to get into the Tickets page where you can select the tickets and proceed to Payment Gateway.
- When you are on the online queue, FIFA displays a message saying “When it’s your turn, you will have 10 minutes to enter the Website”. So always stay close to your gadget once you are in the queue. Your chance will be gone if you are not around when you are redirected and have to join the queue again. However, once you are in the website you will have ample time to select your tickets and proceed to the Payment Gateway.
- Always research extensively on the venues you are booking the match tickets for (Better to research all the venues as you might have to change your priority in a moment’s notice). Check the VISA regulations if the World Cup is hosted by multiple Countries or one of the Venues is geographically separated from the Host country (Kaliningrad, Russia).
- Please keep an International Credit Card dedicated for booking of the tickets for which you need to provide the details in the Random Selection Draw and if application is selected, the amount will be deducted through Direct Debit.
- Do not panic if the amount is not deducted due to some Banking reason. FIFA will contact you if your application is selected and the payment is failed. Alternate options for payment will be provided.
- Research about the Currency Conversion Rates before you jump in to buy the tickets.
- Last, but not the least, Read the complete Rules and Regulations provided on the Website (We skipped it in the beginning as it was too long. But later, we had to dedicate 2 hours to complete this to understand a lot of things).