Clashes as fans queue for World Cup tickets

Dhaka: Cricket fans clashed with police in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh as crowds jostled to buy the first tickets put on sale for the World Cup.

Thousands of people had queued overnight outside banks to get seats at the showpiece event, jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which opens on February 19 in Dhaka with a match between India and Bangladesh.

Police reported that fans were angered after bank authorities said that each branch would sell only 500 tickets due to strict scrutiny of buyers` identification papers.

A small number of fans and one news photographer suffered minor injuries as police broke up protests, officials said.

"They raised slogans and held demonstrations. We dispersed the protesters and maintained calm," police inspector Shah Alam told reporters.

Frustrated fans also damaged several cars in the northern outskirts of the capital, media reports said. Local police chief Abdul Malek said one bus had its windows smashed.

Hundreds of people had braved chilly temperatures in overnight queues that stretched more than two miles (three kilometres) outside some banks in busy commercial areas of Dhaka.

"Forty of my friends and I have been here in front of Dhanmondi 27 branch of City Bank since Saturday morning to get tickets," Ashiq Hossain, 20, told reporters.

"Getting a ticket for the World Cup is a life-and-death issue," said his friend Mahbub. "Bangladesh is hosting the World Cup for the first time and there is every chance that our team will be in the semi-finals."

The country is hosting eight matches between February 19 and April 2, including matches against England, the West Indies and South Africa.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has set aside just 15,000 public tickets per match, which went on sale at 80 branches of the private City Bank and state-owned Agrani Bank today.

"Everyone in this country of 150 million people wants to see the World Cup matches in the stadium. People have become simply crazy," said G S Tamim, a BCB director and head of its World Cup ticket committee.

Tamim said passion for the game had soared following Bangladesh`s 4-0 one-day international series whitewash against New Zealand in October.

"For the first time, supporters see there is realistic chance that the Bangladesh team can upset any side in the World Cup," he told reporters.

"It could be my last chance to see the World Cup in my own city," said Hamidur Rahman, 63, a retired banker, who waited in line overnight. "There is no way I can miss tickets."

Bureau Report