Mon Dieu! Why So Few Ducats for France ‘98?


The French, who were quick to criticize organization of the 1994 World Cup in the United States, appear to have made a dog’s breakfast--that is to say, an unspeakable shambles--of ticket sales for their own tournament this summer.

Angry telephone calls already are flooding into the France ’98 headquarters in Paris from many of the 31 countries that will join the host country in the World Cup on June 10-July 12.

The Belgians are baffled. The Dutch are disgusted. The English are, well, they’re jolly well upset. And the Americans are angry.


“We could easily have sold 50,000 tickets,” Hank Steinbrecher, U.S. Soccer’s executive director, said the other day. “Instead, we’ve been given only about 3,000 to 4,000.”

That’s for the entire country, and the number appears to be typical. Neighbors Belgium and the Netherlands would have had no trouble selling out the 80,000-seat Stade de France by themselves for their first-round game in Saint-Denis on June 13.

Instead, Belgium has been allocated only 5,400 tickets and the Netherlands 5,800.

It gets worse. For example, the Dutch got only 4,700 tickets for their game against South Korea in Marseilles on June 20, and a pitiful 2,200 tickets for the Netherlands-Mexico game in Saint-Etienne on June 23.

“We have written to FIFA, saying we are not happy with the situation,” Dutch soccer federation spokesman Rob de Leede told Reuters. “The demand is three to four times the size of our ticket allocation.”

The problem lies in the curious formula the French devised for allocating tickets to competing countries. Apparently, it is supposed to be 10% of 80% of stadium capacity.

For instance, the Parc des Princes in Paris, where the United States plays European champion Germany on June 15, has a capacity of 49,232. Eighty percent of that is 39,385. The 10% of that figure available to the U.S. is 3,938.


For the potentially explosive U.S.-Iran game in Lyon on June 21, the American allocation is only 3,440 tickets. For the U.S.-Yugoslavia game in Nantes on June 25, it is a mere 3,200.

In all, there are roughly 2.5 million tickets to the 64 World Cup games, 60% of them supposedly designated for French fans.

One man who is not at all happy about the situation is Sweden’s Lennart Johansson, president of UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, and the man most likely to replace Brazilian Joao Havelange as FIFA president in June.

“If I were the [FIFA] president, I would change the system,” Johansson told England’s Independent newspaper last week. “Too small a number of tickets is being given to outsiders. Norway, for example, had expectations of 50,000 tickets, and they have 3,000.

“There is always criticism of this at every World Cup, but this time it is particularly low, and it is too late to do anything about it.”


The sale of tickets in France does not mean French fans will fill the 10 World Cup stadiums. On the contrary.


Tens of thousands of tickets have been bought by tour operators and other middlemen intent on reselling them at a considerable mark-up to fans. According to Guido De Windt, a spokesman for the Belgian soccer federation, one tour operator already has offered to provide 10,000 tickets for Belgium’s game against the Netherlands--at six times face value.

Security officials are more than a little worried that tickets already sold eventually will end up in other hands via the black market and that there will be no way to segregate fans by country, the common practice in Europe as a measure against hooliganism.

The English, only somewhat unfairly, have the worst reputation for hooliganism over the last decade or two, although the Dutch, Germans and Italians are not far behind.

“The Netherlands-Belgium match will be a bit of a test game,” said Georges Querry, French police inspector general and head of security at the World Cup. “That will be the most difficult match we are likely to face.”

Dominique Spinosi, director of security for the World Cup Organizing Committee, said every effort is being made to keep tickets off the black market. For example, French fans who have bought tickets will not receive them until three weeks before the tournament and each ticket will bear the buyer’s name. If they are resold, they will not be valid.

“Coming to France without a ticket means that you almost certainly will not see the match,” Spinosi said.



Soccer’s new Hall of Champions in Paris honored its inaugural inductees at a ceremony last week.

Ten players were selected by FIFA “for sporting success that contributed to the positive image of the game.”

In alphabetical order, they are: Franz Beckenbauer, Germany; Sir Bobby Charlton, England; Johan Cruyff, Netherlands; Alfredo di Stefano, Argentina; Eusebio, Portugal; Sir Stanley Matthews, England; Pele, Brazil; Michel Platini, France; Ferenc Puskas, Hungary; and Lev Yashin, of the former Soviet Union.

Two coaches, Sir Matt Busby of England and Rinus Michels of the Netherlands, also were honored, as were six-time European champion Real Madrid of Spain in the club category and four-time World Cup winner Brazil in the country category.


Croatia’s Tomislav Ivic officially was named Iran’s World Cup coach, replacing Brazil’s Valdeir “Badu” Vieira.

Ivic, 63, has coached such leading clubs as Anderlecht, FC Porto, Ajax Amsterdam, Atletico Madrid, Paris St Germain and Olympique Marseille. On the national team level, he has coached the United Arab Emirates and Croatia.


The United States women’s national team will play Sweden today at Guangzhou, China, in its first of three games in the Guangzhou International women’s tournament. The U.S. team, with a powerful strike force of Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow, Tiffeny Milbrett, Debbie Keller and Tisha Venturini, also will play China on Wednesday and Norway next Saturday. All games are at Tianhe Stadium, where the U.S. won the first women’s world championship in 1991.

Goalkeeper Walter Zenga of the New England Revolution, who played for Italy in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and was voted the world’s top keeper in 1990, announced his retirement at 37.

Former European player of the year and Italian World Cup star Roberto Baggio, 31, was presented a gold medal last Sunday when he played in his 300th game in Italy’s Serie A. The former Fiorentina, Juventus and AC Milan player, now with Bologna, has scored 139 goals.

Defender Uche Okafor of the Kansas City Wizards has been selected for the Nigerian national team that will play in a four-nation tournament Jan. 28-31 in Hong Kong. Also playing will be the host nation, Ira and Chile. Nigeria’s World Cup preparations under Coach Bora Milutinovic also include games against Germany, Yugoslavia and the Netherlands.

Mexican national team winger Luis Hernandez has left Boca Juniors in Argentina to return to the Mexican League, where he will play for Necaxa.

Australia and Aston Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich has won the 1997 Oceania player-of-the-year award, becoming the first keeper to do so. In another poll, former New Zealand international striker Wynton Rufer was chosen Oceania’s player of the decade.


Portuguese giant Benfica has agreed to sell striker and team captain Joao Pinto, 26, to Deportivo Coruna in Spain for $14 million. Half the money supposedly will be used to buy striker Pedro “Pauleta” Resende from Salamanca.

An early candidate for soccer name of the year: goalkeeper Navigator Dzinkambani, who was in the nets in Blantyre, Malawi, last week when Zambia beat the home team, 1-0.


“In Brazil, you have to kill a lion every day. For six months you are Pele, then two bad games and you are nobody.”

--Brazilian striker Emerson, on why he left Middlesbrough in England for Tenerife in Spain, rather than return to Brazil.


FIFA World Player of the Year


Player, Position Country Club Pts 1. Ronaldo, f Brazil Inter Milan 480 2. Roberto Carlos, d Brazil Real Madrid 65 3. Dennis Bergkamp, f Netherlands Arsenal 62 Zinedine Zidane, mf France Juventus 62 5. Raul, f Spain Real Madrid 51 6. Alessandro Del Piero, f Italy Juventus 27 7. Davor Suker, f Croatia Real Madrid 20 8. Gabriel Batistuta, f Argentina Fiorentina 16 Alan Shearer, f England Newcastle United 16 10. Leonardo, mf Brazil AC Milan 14 Peter Schmeichel, g Denmark Manchester United 14 12. Youri Djorkaeff, mf France Inter Milan 12 Marcelo Salas, f Chile River Plate 12 14. Andreas Moeller, mf Germany Borussia Dortmund 11 Matthias Sammer, d Germany Borussia Dortmund 11 George Weah, f Liberia AC Milan 11 Gianfranco Zola, f Italy Chelsea 11 18. Predrag Mijatovic, f Yugoslavia Real Madrid 10 19. Faustino Asprilla, f Colombia Newcastle United 9 20. Luis Figo, f Portugal Barcelona 8


* Based on the votes of 121 national team coaches.