June 29, 2018 / 2:55 PM / 17 days ago

Lost Argentines who missed World Cup match get new tickets...thanks to Putin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two Argentina soccer fans who missed their side’s World Cup match in Russia against Croatia because of a travel mix up were given tickets to Argentina’s following game - courtesy of President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - Group D - Nigeria vs Argentina - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 26, 2018 Argentina's fans celebrate after the match. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo

The two men flew to Russia with plans to watch Argentina take on Croatia last week in the host city of Nizhny Novgorod, according to Russian media reports. But they accidentally went to the town of Veliky Novgorod, some 800 km (497 miles) further west.

After their mistake came to light, the two fans were contacted by regional officials who said Putin had secured them tickets for Argentina’s game against Nigeria in St Petersburg five days later, which their side won 2-1, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported.

Asked by Interfax news agency whether Putin had ordered that the Argentina fans be awarded the tickets, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “That’s the truth.”

“They told us that they were giving us tickets to the game in St Petersburg on the orders of Vladimir Putin,” the newspaper quoted one of the men as saying.

“Whatever happens, happens for the best. In the game which we had tickets for, Argentina blew it 3-0. But in the end we made it for an historic match.”

FIFA and the Argentine Football Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Kremlin is keen to use the World Cup to showcase Russia as an open and welcoming country, and has worked hard to address concerns about some international visitors having to travel extensively between 11 host cities across the country.

While no major disruptions have yet been reported, some fans have arrived in Russia to discover that they have hotel reservations in other cities or booked trains to the wrong destination.

Around 100 Nigerian fans, for example, were temporarily stranded in the Russian exclave and World Cup host city of Kaliningrad earlier in the tournament due to visa problems.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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