The majority of tickets have been sold to Russians but international buyers account for 47 percent. With the draw taking place on Friday, Russia and FIFA have been eager to play down fears over racism and doping.Nearly three-quarters of a million tickets have been sold for the World Cup in Russia next June and July in the first sales phase, world football’s governing body FIFA has said ahead of Friday’s group stage draw.
So far 742,760 tickets have been allocated, with the majority of applications coming from Russia. But “international demand increased steadily” according to FIFA, meaning 47 percent of buyers are from abroad.
“We are very pleased with the results of the first sales phase,” FIFA head of ticketing Falk Eller said. “They confirmed the great interest sparked by the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia – both at local and international level.”
The next sales process starts on December 5 with fans able to apply for specific matches across the 11 Russian cities.
All fans must apply for a Fan ID from the Russian authorities after being confirmed as ticket holders. The ID also serves as a visa and can be used for free public transport to and from matches.
FIFA has also unveiled the official World Cup poster designed by Russian artist Igor Gurovich. It features Russian goalkeeping great Lev Yashin.
Despite the fanfare surrounding Friday’s draw, which will take place in the Kremlin State Palace, controversy continues to swirl around the first Russian World Cup – where Germany head as holders.
Russian track and field athletes remain banned from international competition because of allegations of a state-run doping program and the International Olympic Committee could decide next month to ban the nation from February’s Winter Olympics for the same reason.
Despite football also coming under the microscope, FIFA is confident doping will not be a major issue at the 2018 World Cup.
“From the information we have, we cannot talk about widespread doping in football in Russia,” FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura said.
All World Cup samples will be sent from Russia to a laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, on the day they are collected, she added.
Russian Deputy Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko joked that the national team, which has never won a World Cup, was not good enough to be suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs.
“If we play like this while doped, what would it be like without it?” R-Sport news agency quoted Mutko as saying.
Another worry is that Russia’s problem with fan hooliganism and racism will rear its ugly head next June.
Brazil and former Zenit St Petersburg forward Hulk is among those who fears that racism could hit the tournament after he suffered abuse in the Russian league.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said stopping any such incidents is a “high priority” for FIFA.
“We’ll make sure that no incidents will happen and… we have for the first time in a World Cup the so-called, three-step procedure where a referee can stop a game or even abandon a game if there are discriminatory or racist incidences,” he said in a video message.
“We will be very, very firm on that so we can expect fair play in Russia.”
mlm/ (dpa, AP, Reuters)