The sport of soccer is often called a religion for hundreds of millions around the world. If that’s true, then the religion may have produced a miracle at the opening game of the World Cup. Police in Brazil, where the World Cup tournament has been underway since June 12, are looking into a series of photographs that seem to show disabled people spontaneously healed by the power of the “beautiful game.”
Actually, the police suspect that rather than miracles, they may be looking at an especially cynical case of ticket fraud.
Photos circulated on social media, as well as some taken by stadium security cameras at the Brazil vs. Croatia match in Sao Paulo, which opened the month-long World Cup tournament, appear to show fans clad in the distinctive yellow jerseys of the Brazil national team seated in the wheelchair-reserved section — yet rising to their feet at several moments throughout the match.
The police are wading into a delicate area, because simply requiring a wheelchair to get around does not necessarily mean a disabled person is incapable of standing up. But while the investigation risks accusing legitimately disabled people of faking it, the cops believe there is a more likely explanation.
Tickets to World Cup game have been a hot item on the Brazilian black market, as would be expected. Ticket scalpers have taken up positions outside stadiums, pushing tickets sold at well above their face value on desperate fans clamoring to get in to see almost any World Cup match.
In Brazil, ticket scalping is an offense punishable by up to four years behind bars. But that has not stopped the black marketeers from practicing their trade throughout the World Cup.
One favorite tactic of the illegal ticket-traders is to buy up seats reserved for the disabled — tickets which are made available by soccer’s governing body FIFA at the last minute, unlike most standard tickets which sell weeks or months in advance. The outlaw ticket merchants then resell the special tickets to anyone who wants to get in to see the game.
The disabled-designated tickets also offer higher profits for the scalpers, because each wheelchair-bound fan is given a second ticket for free, to allow a companion who can assist with the disabled person’s care during the game. But scalpers peddle each ticket individually.
Police suspect that fans who bought those tickets on the black market for the opening World Cup match then entered the stadium in wheelchairs, to fully act out the role designated on the tickets.
But in the heat of the moment, at exciting points in the game, they forgot to follow through with their fraud and spontaneously rose to their feet.
The illegal World Cup tickets have also been offered for sale on the internet.