Thousands of die-hard cricket fans queued overnight in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka as banks started selling coveted tickets for the World Cup on Sunday.
The showpiece event, jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, opens on February 19 in Dhaka with a match between India and Bangladesh.
Braving chilly night-time temperatures, fans including hundreds of girls and old men huddled outside bank branches as queues stretched more than two miles (three kilometres) in some 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 AFP.
“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,” he said.
Bangladesh is hosting eight matches to be held between February 19 and April 2.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has set aside a maximum of of just 15,000 tickets for ordinary spectators, which went on sale at 50 branches of the private City Bank on Sunday.
“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 historic 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 AFP.
City Bank spokesman Mirza Yahya said thousands had queued outside branches since Saturday.
“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.”