Asian Cup ticketing problems frustrate eager fans

"Tens of thousands of football fans" of three teams, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, are expected to visit co-host Vietnam to support their teams at the AFC Asian Cup 2007 in Hanoi. "According to international airways which have direct air routes to Vietnam, the number of tickets booked from the three above countries to Hanoi and HCM City has increased remarkably," VietNamNet Bridge reported. An official of Qatar Airways said as the Asian Cup, approached flights from Qatar to Vietnam "for some days have been fully booked." Japan Airlines said its flights to Vietnam "in the coming days have been fully booked."

However ticketing has reportedly been a problem, with travel companies complaining about not being able to buy tickets for the finals while their Japanese customers only buy tours and book air tickets if they have football tickets. “At first we met difficulties in booking air tickets and hotels but when those things were solved, we can’t buy tickets for football matches of the Japanese team. As the organising board distributes football tickets too late, when we get football tickets, we can’t book hotels and air tickets,” a representative of T&T Travel company said.

With only a week to go before the first Asian Cup game in co-host Indonesia, football officials are so concerned that ticket sales - available only on-line through a Malaysian internet service or at a ticket office at the National Stadium in Jakarta - have proved "sluggish" they are negotiating to open up sales outlets in shopping malls.

“The ticket sales are far below our expectations,” Alex Iskandar, ticketing coordinator for the Asian Cup in Indonesia, told AFP. Some 77,000 tickets are being sold for seven matches in Jakarta but only about 30% have been snapped up, he said. “We are going to open outlets in several malls and campuses soon in order to increase the ticket sales,” Iskandar said, adding that a roadshow around Jakarta will also be launched this week. “We hope that tickets will be 100% sold with an active marketing promotion,” he added.