5,000 empty seats at World Cup for Egypt-Uruguay sparks FIFA investigation

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An Egyptian fan seats after the end of the group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Yekaterinburg Arena in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Friday, June 15, 2018. | Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

YEKATERINBURG, Russia — More than 5,000 people with tickets skipped Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Egypt in Yekaterinburg on Friday, the worst-attended World Cup game in eight years.

FIFA said it is investigating why, with “no-shows” one of the factors.

Pockets of orange seats were clearly visible in the lower tiers of the Yekaterinburg Arena, which has a 33,061 capacity for World Cup games. The temporary stands behind the goals for Russian fans appeared to be fuller.

FIFA said it allocated 32,278 tickets and the official attendance was 27,015 for the 5 p.m. kickoff. Egypt forward Mohamed Salah didn’t play in the game because of a shoulder injury.

“There were some bald spots and it wasn’t very pleasant,” regional sports minister Leonid Rapoport told Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency. “We thought Salah would play.”

Yekaterinburg is the furthest east of Russia’s 11 host cities and is about 1,400 kilometers (880 miles) east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains, which are traditionally considered the border between Europe and Asia.

FIFA records show the last World Cup match with a smaller crowd was Paraguay’s 2-0 win over Slovakia in South Africa in 2010, which attracted 26,643 fans. Five days before that game, 23,871 attended a 1-1 draw between New Zealand and Slovakia, the smallest number recorded for any World Cup game this century.

At the last World Cup in Brazil, no game had fewer than 37,000 people in the crowd.

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