Football: one million World Cup tickets go on sale

FIFA on Tuesday put more than one million tickets on sale via the internet for next year's World Cup in Brazil, as some Brazilian fans complained about the high prices.

The chase for tickets began at 1000 GMT, even though World Cup qualification is far from over and the draw for the final phase does not take place until December 6.

A FIFA statement said over one million tickets were requested by more than 163,000 applicants within the first seven hours of ticket sales.

The biggest demand so far came from Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Chile and England, it noted.

The most popular tickets were those for the World Cup's opening game in the Sao Paulo arena (more than 168,000 sought) on June 12 and those for the final in Rio's iconic Maracana stadium (more than 165,000)scheduled for July 13, the statement said.

At least 300,000 of the tickets that went on sale are reserved for "those over 60 years old, students and recipients of the Bolsa Familia family grant", the International Football Federation (FIFA) said on its internet site.

Those tickets are branded Category 4, cost between $15 and $82.50 (11-62 euros), and are available only to Brazilians.

Foreigners can buy tickets in the other three categories, which cost much more.

Tickets in those categories for the opening match at the Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo cost between $220 and $495 while those for the final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana will set back fans a minimum of $440 up to $990.

But some Brazilian fans find the tickets, except for the discount categories, too expensive.

"I think that the tickets are too expensive, they should lower the prices," said a 45-year-old fan outside Rio's renovated 73,000-seat Maracana stadium.

"One should realize that the Cup is part of a process to make football standardized and elitist" which involves "evicting the poor from stadiums," said Gustavo Mehl, a member of the Cup's Popular Committee.

The monitoring committee has been highly critical of the way the tournament is being organized.

Many local fans are keen to see the national squad play in Rio but this will happen only if the Selecao reach the final.

"In the 1950 Cup final (also held in Brazil) , tickets represented a little more than two percent of the minimum wage at the time. By comparison the cheapest ticket for the (2014) final costs around $138 or about 50 percent of the (monthly) minimum wage," according to Mehl.

Some 23.6 percent of Brazil's 194-million-strong population live with the equivalent of the minimum wage of $282 while 22.4 percent live with up to twice that amount, according to official data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.

Monday, FIFA announced that fans will have the option of receiving their tickets at home to avoid congestion at outlet centers as happened during the Confederations Cup in June.

The first phase of sales, relating to around a third of the total number of tickets available, lasts until October 6, after which a ballot will be held to determine the successful applications.

So far only hosts Brazil, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Iran have booked their places at the finals.

The World Cup will take place across 12 cities with around 600,000 foreign fans expected to attend the tournament.