I have not written anything in this blog in over a year. I figure this is a great time to start back writing as the initial origin for this blog was my 2006 trip to the FIFA World Cup in Germany. Since the ticket prices for the 2014 FIFA World Cup being held in Brazil were just released and the opening game is less than 11 months away why not start a countdown. My every intention is to travel to Brazil for that World Cup. The US Men’s National Team are currently atop the standings in the CONCACAF Final qualifying stage and looks to be a lock to be one of the 32 teams going to Brazil. I went to Brazil in January of 2012, so I already have my travel visa and a little knowledge of the country and how to get around it.. So lets start planning the trip here with hopefully more regular updates for others interested in the perspective of an American planning a trip.
I know from attending past Olympics and World Cups that tickets are expensive and there is a price premium attached compared to a similar sporting event. I found my 2006 invoice for the TST-5 (Team Specific Ticket 5 Games) that I purchased that allowed me to attend all 3 of the USA games, and then due to the USA failure to advance the next 2 games I followed the winner of the group (Italy, and eventual champion of the world). These 5 games cost a total of 402 Euros (before crazy high 25Euro delivery charge). At the exchange rate in mid 2005 when I was charged for the tickets, it was 1.30Euros for $1 USD, so the tickets in dollars cost $522 USD give or take a few dollars. Now fast forward to the announced prices for the same Cat 2, TST-5 ticket in Brazil and its listed at $869 USD for the 5 games, with the assumption your team does not play in the A2 slot, which is reserved for the opening game vs Brazil in Sao Paulo, which has a higher premium. So this is a $347 increase in ticket prices over the 8 years since the last world cup or a 66% increase. WOW this is higher than any inflation rate/stock market return around.. If FIFA was a stock, it would be worth investing in as they know how to raise their top line revenues.
Lets look back at the 2006 and 2010 Draws for the USA. In 2006 we were in Group E, Slot 3(E3), and 2010 we were drawn into Group C, Slot 2 (C2). The distances and times in 2006 were much shorter as Germany is a compact country with First World A+ infrastructure in the form of high speed trains along with regional/discount airlines. June 12th game vs Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen. This game was in the home of Schalke 04 team that plays in the Bundesliga. I stayed in Essen, the same city where the USA team set up shop, this was only a 10 minute ride on the rail. But other large cities in the area including Dortmund and Dusseldorf were less than 1hr away by rail.
June 17th game vs Italy in Kaiserslauten. This city K-town is close to the giant US military base at Ramstein and the area home to over 100,000 US personal and their familes. I remember I had to come here twice, the second time for the Australia vs Italy Round of 16 game, and I stayed in Mainz about 40 minutes away on high speed train. The accommodations were limited in this area but with the high speed rail it was easy to get around. But again in the 5 days between games I actually went to Amsterdam, Belgium and Luxembourg before heading back to Germany for this game.
June 22nd game vs Ghana in Nuremberg. This game was the further away from the last city, but still from the previous game, it was at most a 4hr ride on the high speed rail. In fact the longest high speed trip I took was from the far south of Germany in Munich to Hamburg in the far north. This was about 6hrs on the train. Again another reason why Germany was the ultimate host for the world cup. It had modern stadiums, great infrastructure, well organized helpers and security and easy to get around. Looking at how FIFA have awarded the rights since germany it seems no consideration is given to the fans and the difficult task of traveling to follow their national team. Brazil is huge, Russia for 2018 is huge and Qatar in 2022 well let me just say I hope it gets pulled and awarded to the USA. Even then the USA has horribly slow trains but its possible to get from one side of the country to the other in less than 72hrs by train/car/bus.
The 2010 Draw put the USA in Rustenburg, Johannesburg, and Pretoria. Rustenberg is listed as 125km from Johannesburg and about a 2hr drive. So these cities were easy to get between even within the contest of a game day. Pretoria is listed as 70km from Johannesburg again a simple day trip. The longest distance in south Africa is between the 2 main cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg, these is train service between these, along with airplane and bus service that can easily be done in less than the 5 days between games. Also anyone going to South Africa should visit these 2 main cities during the stay, see more of the country than just soccer stadiums.
So lets look at if the USA was drawn as an E3 for the 2014 Brazil cup. The games would be June 15th in Porto Alegre, June 20th in Salvador, and June 25th in Rio de Janeiro. Porto Alegre is the most south of the host cities and in June it is going to be “cold” that time of year with average temperatures of about 20C, or 68F. The distance to Salvardor is about 3,000km (2000 miles) and I don’t think any sane person would drive this who is not a local and given the condition of brazilian roads, so flying would be the next best option. Looking up a plane ticket for a trip 3 weeks from now in Mid-August 2013 I find a fare of $283 on Gol Airlines, with a stopover in Rio making the total trip 5hrs. We would have to expect that airfares will be higher and capacity limited during the World Cup. Salvador to Rio is about 1,500km, listed as an 18hr drive. There are buses that run between these cities as I know people who have taken this route before and it can be upwards of 24hrs travel time.
If the USA was drawn as a C2 the schedule would line up June 14th Belo Horizonte, June 19th Natal, June 24th Fortaleza. From Belo Horizonte to Natal is about 2,200km, or listed as a 28hr car ride. Again this is far and not something of interest to most travelers. Lets just say for those people who have not been to Brazil and think it would be like renting a car and driving from say Chicago to Miami which is about the same distance, lets just look at the cost of gasoline. In Brazil gasoline is about 2.80 Real for 1 Liter. I find on the Sixt rent a car site a week long rental of a Chevrolet Celta which is a ultra-compact but great gas mileage (5.4 Liters/100km or about 43 mpg). The gas would be 118 Liters, total cost of R332 or $150 USD. The cost of the week rental I come up with $350 or so. So at $500 this compares to the one-way airfare again found on GOL airlines for a trip 3 weeks from now.. but we can expect all these prices to rise, and I’ve never driven 2,200km in Brazil so I can’t attest to the quality of the roads but I don’t expect them to be USA Eisenhower Interstate quality. Getting from Natal to Fortaleza, now this is totally easy to do in the 5 days between games at a listed distance of less than 600km, or a time of 7hrs.
So I guess what I’ve been trying to say in the last few paragraphs is that traveling around to follow your team with a TST ticket will be difficult no matter if your team is USA, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, etc.. And you have to hope that your team does NOT get drawn in a group that plays in Cuiaba or Manaus, as these cities are in the middle of the Brazilian no-where land.
More posts to come about my planning for the trip to the 2014 World Cup