Fraudsters have tricked scores of Nigerians by selling them football World Cup fan passes to travel to Russia, leaving many stranded and penniless, victims and anti-trafficking campaigners say.
Some Nigerians told AFP they used the official Fan IDs to come to Russia with the promise of finding work or even playing professional football themselves.
Others said they came to watch World Cup matches but got stranded when their return plane tickets were cancelled by bogus travel agencies that booked them.
Ismail Olamilekan, 21, and his brother Sodiq, 25, said they paid 250,000 naira (600 euros, $700) each to a man in Lagos for their Fan IDs.
“The man told us that with the Fan ID we could get a job and stay here,” Ismail told AFP at a hostel on the outskirts of Moscow.
“But when we got here we discovered that it was a fraud, that he had just collected the money and lied to us.”
– ‘Football career’ –
The plastic-coated passes issued by the Russian government enable foreign fans to enter the country without a visa during the World Cup — but they expire before the end of July.
They are issued free to fans who have bought tickets for World Cup matches. But some agents sold them to Nigerians who wanted to come to Russia to work.
It was not clear how the bogus agents obtained the Fan IDs that they sold.
A FIFA spokesman stressed that the Fan IDs system was implemented by the Russian communications ministry.
FIFA “continues to make efforts to identify and curb unauthorised ticket sales”, he added.
The Olamilekan brothers spent about a thousand dollars each for their plane fare to Moscow, on top of what they paid separately to the agent.
“In Nigeria, I play football. He told me that if I started working I can also start a (football) career in Russia,” Ismail Olamilekan said.
– Nigerians ‘stranded’ –
A fellow Muslim was allowing the brothers to sleep in his hostel until their return flight on July 22.
Other Nigerians, however, found themselves stranded in Russia after fraudulent “agents” who booked return flights for them then cancelled the bookings to get a refund.
A group of about a dozen Nigerians waiting at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on Tuesday told AFP they had been sleeping there for days.
Some of them said they paid more than a million naira each to an agent for a package including flights, match tickets and a fan ID.
“We’ve been sleeping on the floor like fools. We’ve got no place to go,” said Alonge Ademola, 35, a cement dealer from Lagos.
“We really do want to go back to our country. We’ve cried, we’ve wept, but still no solution.”
Russian charity Alternativa said it had helped about 50 Nigerians stranded in Russia and estimated there were about 200 in difficulty overall.
“With globalisation the opportunities for criminals are also increasing. The Fan IDs make an extremely profitable business for them,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Yulia Siluyanova.
– ‘Natural’ problem –
Siluyanova told AFP on Thursday that the authorities in cooperation with Alternativa had made arrangements for about 20 stranded Nigerians to be flown back home.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing that the issue of stranded fans was “not desirable but it’s also natural”.
“It’s really a problem that primarily the fans themselves should resolve along with diplomatic and consular missions of their countries,” she said.
The Nigerian embassy did not respond to requests for comment.
“You can’t rule out that some of the foreign guests, taking advantage of visiting the World Cup, are counting in some way or another, usually illegally, on crossing the Russian border and entering one of the European countries,” Zakharova said.
“If such an action is recognised as illegal, the relevant authorities will take the necessary administrative measures.”
– Lesson learnt –
The Olamilekan brothers meanwhile are waiting to board the return flights that they bought with money their parents borrowed.
“We don’t have any option but to go back home and work and pay our parents’ debts,” Ismail said.
“I spoke to them last night. They asked if we’ve got a job and if we’re living well and I decided to tell them yes. I don’t like lying to my parents,” he said.
“I still give thanks to God because He has taught me a lesson.”
FINAL ATTRACTED 1.12 BILLION VIEWERS! Russia 2018 is best watched World Cup ever, says FIFA
A record audience of more than 3.5 billion people watched this year’s World Cup in Russia, with the final between France and Croatia attracting 1.12 billion viewers, world soccer’s governing body said on Friday.
FIFA said 3.572 billion viewers – more than half of the global population aged four and over – watched some part of the official coverage, which was broadcast live in every territory worldwide from June 14 to July 15.
The global in-home TV audience watching at least one minute of the coverage accounted for almost 3.3 billion viewers, a 2.2 per cent increase on the 2014 edition hosted in Brazil, according to FIFA’s audit of audience data published on Friday.
A further 309.7 million caught the action on digital platforms, public viewing areas or in bars and restaurants.
France’s 4-2 victory in the final, which gave them their second World Cup title following their triumph in 1998, was the most watched game of the competition.
It was followed by England’s semi-final defeat to Croatia and the other last-four clash between France and Belgium.
“These figures really do support the claim that Russia 2018 was the best World Cup ever,” said FIFA’s chief commercial officer, Philippe Le Floc’h.
“The fact that half the world’s population watched the FIFA World Cup reflects not just the high quality of our award-winning live coverage, but also that fans everywhere are insatiable for world-class football.”
The World Cup coverage reached around 1.6 billion individuals in Asia, with 655.7 million viewers (18.4 per cent of the global total) in China, who failed to qualify for the tournament.
The 2022 edition of World Cup will be held in Qatar.
HE HAS A VERY GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN! Mbappe donates £384,000 World Cup 2018 earnings to charity
French professional footballer, Kylian Mbappé, will donate money earned from featuring in the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia to a sports charity that works with disabled and hospitalised children, Premiers de Cordee.
According to Sports Illustrated, the 19-year-old who plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain was paid £17,000 per game and pocketed £265,000 for being part of the team who won the tournament.
Speaking to Le Parisien, Premier de Cordee charity general manager, Sebastian Ruffin said:
“Kylian, he’s a great person.
“When his schedule allows it, he intervenes for us with pleasure.
“He has a very good [relationship] with children, he always finds the right [words] to encourage them.
“I sometimes even feel that [he] takes more pleasure to play with the kids than the kids themselves.”
Mbappe, who joined PSG for a fee of around £166m from Monaco after a season-long loan, was named Young Player of the World Cup.
Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958.
TENS OF THOUSANDS! Croatians give heroes’ welcome to World Cup squad
Tens of thousands of Croatians gave a heroes’ welcome to their team in Zagreb on Monday after the squad returned from Russia following their World Cup final defeat.
A crowd estimated at more than 100,000 thronged the capital’s main square to see the players, led by captain and World Cup Golden Ball winner Luka Modric, parade through the streets on an open-top bus.
Cheering fans, many waving flags and wearing the famous red and white shirt of Croatia, held up banners celebrating the runners-up after their gallant 4-2 defeat by France.
“This is how Croatia is loved,” read one banner. Another said: “We are few, but we believed and that is enough”.
Many even skipped work to celebrate the team reaching their first ever World Cup final.
“I closed my office to welcome our heroes. I put a sign up reading ‘Today, July 16, 2018’, office closed due to our Vatreni (‘the Fiery Ones’ in Croatian),” doctor Sanja Klajic told AFP.
Earlier noisy fans awaited their side’s appearance by singing a popular song “Play on my Croatia, when I see you my heart is on fire!” while watching the plane carrying the team progress to the capital on a giant TV screen.
When the plane, accompanied by military jets and emblazoned with the logo “Bravo Vatreni” flew overhead the crowd cheered and chanted “Hands up, hands up!”.
After landing at the city’s airport around 3:25 pm (1325 GMT), the players emerged to shrieks from fans at the terminal.
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