Kolkata: Sky-rocketing craze for tickets saw over 1.50 lakh soccer fans registering online in the first three hours to watch Wednesday's Brazil-England Under-17 FIFA World Cup semi-final tie that was shifted to Kolkata from Guwahati on Monday.
Those who logged in to ticketing section of official website FIFA.com around 11.15 p.m. were greeted with the message: "Your number in line: 155,218. Number of users ahead of you: 105,917."
The mad scramble for tickets started soon after 6 pm, when FIFA officially announced the semi-final had been shifted to Kolkata's Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) because of poor ground condition at Guwahati's Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium following heavy rainfall over the past few days.
The world soccer governing body also announced that online purchase of tickets would start at 8.30 pm.
"Around 7.15 p.m., there were already around 20,000 people in the queue," said FIFA Local Organising Committee (LOC) Project Director Joy Bhattacharjya.
The number of ticket-seekers swelled with each passing minute.
Incidentally, VYBK — the largest stadium in India — has a sitting capacity of 85,000. Due to security and logistical reasons, the capacity has been reduced to 66,600 for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Kolkata is regarded as the soccer capital of India, and is home to leading soccer clubs East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, whose rivalry features among the lists of classic Derby clashes.
The flat rate of tickets is Rs 100. FIFA has also announced that while fans who had purchased tickets for the Guwahati encounter would be entitled for a refund, they "will also have priority access to purchase tickets for the Kolkata semi-final".
The fans eager to come to Kolkata have been advised to carry online proof of purchase to the dedicated ticket counter for Guwahati customers, and buy a ticket.
"Around 17,500 tickets were sold to the public in Guwahati. We have kept provision for those who wish to come to Kolkata to watch the game. They won't face any problems," said Bhattacharjya.
He said because of the short time available, efforts were being made to open as many counters as possible for redemption of online tickets.
"We are in talks with the West Bengal government. They are pro-actively helping us,” Bhattacharjya said during the joint media meet with state sports minister Aroop Biswas.
The LOC and the state government held a three-hour long meeting on various logistics after it was decided to shift the venue.
"The sort of craze we are seeing, it seems selling the tickets would not pose any problem. We are more concerned with giving a large number of options to the fans to redeem the tickets," he said.
Biswas said the state government was given only an hour by the LOC to decide whether the administration could make arrangements for the game if relocated to Kolkata.
"We decided in 45 minutes. It's a challenge. Tickets distribution is a factor but our six departments will work day and night and we will organise the match successfully," said Biswas.