Football fans across the country furiously refreshed their browsers and open tabs on Thursday as tickets for Argentina’s first home match as world champions went on sale.
Millions were left disappointed, however, after the game sold out in just two hours.
According to local press reports, between 1.5 million and two million people joined the virtual online queue in an attempt to get one of the 63,000 available tickets for the team's first appearance on home soil, a friendly against Panama, since lifting the football World Cup in Qatar.
Tickets for next Thursday’s match in Buenos Aires, at River Plate’s recently refurbished Monumental stadium, sold out in two hours, according to the Deportick website who sold them.
Disappointed fans, who had patiently waited for their 10-minute window to purchase tickets were greeted with a simple message saying “sold out.”
The venue has a capacity of 83,000, but the Argentine Football Association (AFA) said 20,000 seats were reserved for complimentary tickets and sponsors.
The match will kick off at 8.30pm, though fans will be allowed in from 4pm to create a party atmosphere.
Not even the extortionate price of some tickets (the highest were 49,000 pesos, about US$245 at the official exchange rate) dampened enthusiasm in a country where the average salary is not even double that, according to official government data. The cheapest tickets were priced at 12,000 pesos (around US$60).
Nevertheless, there was always going to be high demand. This will be the Scaloneta’s first match since lifting the World Cup trophy and fans are desperate to welcome home their heroes. An aborted victory parade just days after the tournament in Qatar finished drew an estimated five million Argentines onto the streets and the players’ attempts to greet the crowds and continue their motorcade were cut short amid security concerns as their bus slowed to a halt. Eventually, the squad was evacuated by helicopter.
Speaking prior to tickets going on sale, AFA president Claudio Tapia said there had been 131,537 requests for media accreditation, with stadium capacity for only 344 journalists.
"We would love to be able to accommodate everyone, but we would need two ... stadiums, just for journalists. The madness for Argentina is total," said Tapia on Twitter.
Argentina won its third World Cup title by beating France 4-3 on penalties after drawing 3-3 at the final whistle.
After the match against Panama, Lionel Messi's team will take on Curaçao in a friendly five days later in Santiago del Estero. The venue hosting the match, the Estadio Único Madre de Ciudades, will be stripped of its seats to accommodate extra fans, with its capacity temporarily raised to 50,000.
It emerged late Thursday that judicial officials have opened an investigation into potential fraud in the selling of tickets for the Panama match. Before the official window to buy opened at 2pm local time, some other platforms were already offering tickets for sale.
A probe has been opened to see if the offers were genuine or just a scam. If it is the former, it means tickets were available to buy before being offered on the Deportick website.
Questions are also being asked about the decision to sell tickets to Argentina national team matches through the previously unknown Deportick portal. AFA has used another website, AutoEntrada, in recent years.