On the fast track: Hongkongers and Vladimir Putin sign up for Fan ID at Russia World Cup

World Cup 2018 ticket holders in and around the city are eligible for Fifa’s first World Cup Fan ID, which provides visa and travel perks this summer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2018, 4:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2018, 4:21pm

What does Russian president Vladimir Putin have in common with 1,500-odd Hong Kong citizens? They both successfully applied for their unique World Cup 2018 Fan IDs, according to the Russia Federation Ministry of Communication of Mass Media.

As of the end of April, more than 550,000 fans received their personalised spectator card – the first of its kind in a World Cup – a free of charge add-on available to any holder of a match ticket.

Russia plans to issue two million of the IDs in the lead-up to the event running from June 14 to July 15.

As well as a fast track for entry into stadiums, foreign ID holders can enter and leave Russia visa-free provided they have valid travel documents. The match ticket and Fan ID combo also entitles free travel on trains between host cities such as St Petersburg, Sochi and Kalingrad.

Of the currently confirmed holders, 50 per cent are Russian citizens, 4 per cent (22,500) from the US – the highest from overseas – and 3.5 per cent from China (19,501). A total of 1,533 Hong Kong applicants have received IDs. More than 70 per cent of the Hong Kong contingent is male, but only 39 of those signed up are under the age of 20.

Other Asian nations include Thailand with 782 Fan ID holders, Indonesia 660, and Philippines 228.

Hong Kong art teacher Darling Ng Shuk-yu and friends signed up for their Fan IDs after purchasing group stage tickets to see Brazil v Serbia at the Otkritie Arena in Moscow. They will be looking to take advantage of the ID perks once in the world’s largest nation.

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“I’m actually not a football fan but I want to feel that amazing atmosphere,” said Ng, who has never visited Russia. “We were told you get a discount on transportation if you apply [for the ID] and it feels safer because [they] can identify fans entering the stadium.

“The online application process was very simple and took about one week to get to Hong Kong. My friends said I’m lucky and I expect to see a lot of beautiful churches and partying while I’m there,” she added.

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A post shared by Darling Ng (@darlingpigpig) on Apr 17, 2018 at 12:25am PDT

Taiwanese football fan and blogger for Just Go Traveler, Pan Cheng-hsin, secured his ID earlier this year. Pan wrote a step-by-step guide to the application process for his readers and will continue to document his Russian adventure online.

“After purchasing the game ticket last November, I registered online to get the e-Fan ID,” he said. “The [physical] card was delivered in January and they provided a free round-trip train ticket from Moscow to the host city of the game.

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“The ID also offered visa-free entry to Russia so it grants me a long-awaited chance to climb Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe,” said Pan.

“The process is much more simple and efficient than the regular Russia visa application; getting a tourist invitation would require hotel reservation confirmation, tourist vouchers, etc.”

Putin and Fifa president Gianni Infantino also received their respective Fan IDs at Sochi Olympic Park last week. Russian Ministry of Communications and mass media head Nikolai Nikiforov said at the event: “Russia is the first country in the world that implemented the Fan ID project at Fifa matches.

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“The unique technology makes it possible to verify the tournament participants in advance and ensures a high level of security during the matches. We successfully tried this technology out at the 2017 Confederations Cup. We can issue up to two million Fan IDs – over 675,000 have applied until now.”