Since the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Moscow last Thursday, crowds of Chinese soccer fans have been flying into neighboring Russia for the quadrennial tournament. But as they landed in the host city, some unlucky fans would soon discover that their tickets were counterfeit.
Around 3,000 Chinese soccer fans were tricked into a ticket scam set up by a Russian company Anji MSK, a staff from Russian Embassy in China told Tencent’s sports channel last Saturday. It was reported that over 10,000 counterfeit tickets were sold around the world and the total value might exceed 100 million US dollars.
Though China’s national team failed to make it into the world tournament, soccer fans of the country showed unprecedented passion towards the game and purchased more than 40,000 tickets, FIFA reported.
While most fans obtained tickets from FIFA’s official website or the organization’s partner in China, some fans purchased tickets through local travel agencies that partnered with Anji MSK. The Russian company claimed to own ticket sales right and managed to provide a letter of authorization from FIFA, China National Radio reports.
But as the game’s opening day approached, Anji MSK could no longer be reached, and none of the promised tickets were delivered.
After receiving a stunning number of complaints from Chinese travel agencies and soccer fans, Russian Embassy in China launched an inquiry with Russia’s foreign ministry and was told the alleged authorization letter was illegitimate.
On Saturday night, when Argentina soccer star Lionel Messi missed a penalty as his team played against Iceland, approximately 30 soccer fans from southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality were left outside the stadium. Another 60 fans in Chongqing might face the same destiny as they prepared to leave for Russia without tickets.
The city’s travel bureau has reacted quickly to the scam and ordered the relevant Chinese travel agencies to set up compensation mechanism for customers.
The Russian Embassy in China has issued two notices warning Chinese soccer fans about the scam and contacted Russia’s interior ministry for further investigation.