Qatar World Cup: FIFA World Cup coupon gatherers savour treasure hunts

Mohammed Abdullateef joined his first Football World Cup four years ago in Russia, where he had to relax for watching most of the games on TV. It was problematic, he remembered, to get a ticket. Few people on the earth have more World Cup tickets than Abdullateef, whose collection numbers 1,200 and totalling. He has tickets to all but one World Cup game played since 1958.

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FIFA World Cup Tickets | Qatar Football World Cup Tickets | Qatar FIFA World Cup Tickets
FIFA World Cup Tickets | Qatar Football World Cup Tickets | Qatar FIFA World Cup Tickets

For the inaugural contest in 1930, when tickets were sold in three classes, he has all three, plus a linked press media credential. He even has vouchers for games that were never played, like a Germany-Switzerland knockout round game from 1938 that was initially arranged for two dates, and the final in 1982, when Abdullateef said vouchers for a backup date were published but never used.

However, as Moscow verified, he doesn’t do quite as well with games that haven’t been played. We went to the fan zone, he said. Sometimes in the hotel, we were viewing. Abdullateef declines to say what the gathering has cost him or what it would be worth if he tried to sell it. But then money wasn’t what drove his attention in the first place. I am cracked about the Football World Cup, said Abdullateef, 50.

He was curved on the competition after viewing a game from the 1982 contest on television as a boy. He wasn’t crazy enough to start assembling tickets until 2010 though, the year Qatar was given the rights to host this year’s FIFA World Cup in Doha. When it was declared, I could not believe it, I could not imagine, the Football World Cup would come here.

Because I know the sense of the FIFA World Cup, Abdullateef said over coffee in the sun-splashed lobby of Doha’s pyramid-shaped Sheraton Hotel on the banks of the Persian Gulf. So of course I was thrilled. The seed had been engrained more than a decade and a half earlier when Saudi Arabia became the first Arab nation to reach the knockout round of a World Cup.

A collectables trader in the U.S., who Abdullateef trusts didn’t know the difference between Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Qatar, sent him a permit from the Saudis’ opening game along with pictures of some players. I still have this permit, said Abdullateef, a telecom cause and political animator. But I never thought about collecting vouchers. I was collecting books. I like to read about the FIFA World Cup.

That attention led him to a forum online, where he tripped into a conversation about ticket gatherers. So the idea came to me to collect one ticket from each, from 1930 until 2010, he said. I started searching eBay. Abdullateef said assembling most Football World Cup tokens, especially tickets, would be all but dreadful without the internet.

FIFA World Cup Tickets | Qatar Football World Cup Tickets | Qatar FIFA World Cup Tickets
FIFA World Cup Tickets | Qatar Football World Cup Tickets | Qatar FIFA World Cup Tickets

His unique plan was to collect just one ticket from each of the 21 competitions, but as more and more tickets became available, he obvious expanded his search to include at least one ticket from all 900 FIFA World Cup games. He wasn’t the only one with that hobby. Receipt collecting is not only a thing, but was debatably the hottest subgenre of the pandemic era in the sports collectables marketplace, said Chris Ivy, manager of the sports category for Dallas-based Heritage Auctions.

Many collectors contend to create the most inclusive and highest-graded groups in various themes. Abdullateef guesses his collection, which fills 12 albums and is kept in a safe, is about 95% of the way there but acknowledges it may never be complete. Still, it may be rivalled only by that of Italian football fan Matteo Melodia, who has more than 6,000 coupons from World Cups, European championships, Italian national team games and even club games featuring his favourite side, AC Milan.

Melodia began gathering as a boy 35 years ago after a friend gave him a Manchester United ticket. He was underway with English club games, but because his family travelled lengthily, his focus quickly prolonged. Four years ago Melodia, a discharged police officer, collected his collection in book form in FIFA World Cup Tickets 1930-2018.

Melodia said his FIFA World Cup collection is missing 19 games

Melodia said his Football World Cup collection is missing 19 games, many from the 1950 contest in Brazil when games were played far from the main population centres of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Coupons from the 1934 World Cup in Italy and the 1938 competition in France are also rare since many were lost in the annihilation of World War II. Filling in the gaps, Abdullateef said, can require some investigator work. For more to know about Football World Cup Tickets click here.

You have the list of the FIFA World Cup games and you know in which city they were played, he said. But that’s not always where the coupons are found. It can be somebody from Belgium and he has roughly from France, Abdullateef said. For gatherers, the most sought-after permits aren’t the ones from games everyone recalls. For the 1950 final in Brazil, for example, nearly 200,000 coupons were sold while tickets to the 1966 final in London, where England won its only label, quickly became keepsakes.

FIFA World Cup Tickets | Qatar Football World Cup Tickets | Qatar FIFA World Cup Tickets
FIFA World Cup Tickets | Qatar Football World Cup Tickets | Qatar FIFA World Cup Tickets

As a result, they aren’t rare. However, the 1966 group-play game between North Korea and Italy, played before 17,829 fans in Middlesbrough, was soon elapsed as were the tickets, which are now hard to find. But just because the tickets are erratic doesn’t make them valuable, Ivy said. Often, it’s just the conflict. Based on our knowledge the championship games and those containing the debut of iconic players or recording historic moments are highly coveted, he said.

A large proportion of Football World Cup games would be fairly meaningless from a historical viewpoint. Finals are likely worth many multiples of what group-stage permits would grasp. This is fine with Melodia who, like Abdullateef, didn’t get into collecting to get rich. Money is categorically the last thing in the desire of collecting, he said when asked what his gathering was worth. Passion has no equal in money.

Still, some tickets can raise high prices. The Holy Grail of World Cup porcelains is a ticket from 1934 final in Rome. Only three or four tickets to that game are believed to exist and Melodia and Abdullateef each have one, the Qataris are contracted by three Italians who played in the game. The receipt cost 60 lira in 1934, Abdullateef said he bought it on eBay for $5,800, which he considers a steal.

He reserved a World Cup ticket at an opening price of $120

The guy, he says of the retailer, maybe his grandfather died or something and he thought it’s just a coupon. So he booked at an opening price of $120. He didn’t know the value. Abdullateef did. You have to know the trick of the request, he said. At the last second, you have to bid to not give a chance to the others. Politicians can also hamper gatherers.

A woman in Uruguay once obtainable to sell Abdullateef tickets from the first Football World Cup but the management insisted the rare reserves had to remain in the nation and blocked the sale. However, the biggest danger for gatherers is fake tickets, particularly for the competitions played between 1950 and 1962. Abdullateef said he found out he had been cheated when he emailed photos of some of his tickets to a gatherer in the U.K.

He said, this is fake, this fake, this is original, he evoked. He started to teach me how to know. He gave me the key. Abdullateef rapidly became so adept at noticing fakes that while staying at a FIFA exhibition in Russia four years ago, he told a friend many of the vouchers were fakes. He said, what, you know better than FIFA? Abdullateef recalled. He didn’t trust me. Nor did FIFA.

FIFA World Cup Tickets | Qatar Football World Cup Tickets | Qatar FIFA World Cup Tickets
FIFA World Cup Tickets | Qatar Football World Cup Tickets | Qatar FIFA World Cup Tickets

But after Abdullateef told them how he knew, FIFA inscribed back to say he was right and deleted photos of the coupons from social media posts. Abdullateef finally got tickets to a couple of games in Russia, the only Football World Cup games he’s seen in person. He plans to attend both semi-finals this December in Qatar. But the holder of one of the world’s most extensive collections of tickets said he doesn’t have one for any of those games.

Admission to Qatar Football World Cup will be handled through mobile apps, which may be safer and more secure but will make collecting those vouchers impossible. The migration to mobile apps will be the final nail in the box, Ivy said. The vital surviving tickets will always be desirable and valuable and will likely last the rising trend that sports collectables have enjoyed.

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