Football fans showed up at the gates of Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium on Monday to discover that all 50,000 tickets for tonight’s showdown between Cambodia and Chinese Taipei had sold out. But they were soon surrounded by scalpers offering them a second chance to access the match—albeit at an inflated price.
Football fever has consumed Cambodia since the World Cup qualifying campaign—which began in March last year and ended with eight losses from eight games—and some have sought to cash in on the excitement by purchasing large quantities of tickets and reselling them on at higher prices.
Sem Sovanpiseth, a 19-year-old high school student who traveled to Phnom Penh from his home in Kompong Speu province to secure tickets for his friends and family on Monday, was far from impressed by the rogue touts seeking to sell the 5,000 riel passes for 15,000 riel each, or about $3.75.
“They get the tickets from inside and sell them outside at triple the price,” a deflated Mr. Sovanpiseth said.
“They are selling tickets for 15,000 riel, so I don’t have enough money. I’m disappointed because I wanted to come and support” the national team, he said.
Run Ra, 20, a university student from Phnom Penh, agreed to fork over 14,000 riel for a single ticket, but voiced his frustration at the high price of catching a glimpse of the likes of striker Chan Vathanaka.
“I was very surprised because the price is too high. Before, it was just 5,000 riel. But now it is more than 10,000 riel,” he said, adding that the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) should take action to stamp out the scalping.
“If they sold it for just a little bit more than the original price, it would be OK, but this is too much.”
Another fan outside the stadium, journalist Sok Chamroeun, said he had been sold five tickets for 6,000 riel each, only to discover that they were fake.
“All these are fakes, you see? You can take a picture,” he said, displaying a handful of counterfeits.
“We were cheated, but what can we do?” he added. “We want to see and support Khmer [athletes], and now Khmer are cheating Khmer.”
The fake tickets have not gone unnoticed by the FCC, which posted a video to its Facebook page on Monday explaining how to tell the difference between authentic tickets and counterfeit ones.
All of the scalpers approached outside Olympic Stadium on Monday declined to be interviewed.
FCC spokesman May Tola criticized the practice of selling on tickets at inflated prices but said it would be hard to stop.
“Actually, it’s a bad thing, and we want to stop it because it has a negative impact,” he said.
“[But] it cannot be avoided because we want to have many people come and watch, so when they want to buy 10 or 20 tickets, we cannot refuse them and sell them just one or two.”