Brent Flanagan enjoyed Russia and the Confederations Cup so much last year that he didn't hesitate to spend around $1,500 on flights and tickets to see the Socceroos at this year's World Cup.  

Imagine his surprise then, when he found out last weekend that he is unable to go. 

Brent applied for his official FAN ID for the Russia 2018 tournament last December, and thought everything was working just as it should when it arrived in February. But last Sunday, the Brisbane-born, Phnom Penh resident, received an email from the FAN ID centre saying that he has now been rejected. He received a repeat of the email on each of Monday and Tuesday also. 

“At first I thought it was a technical glitch given the same email kept arriving. I tried to find out more information however the FAN ID centre kept coming back with the official lines about how fan ID can be refused.”

The FAN ID centre advised Brent that: “According to the rules (order No. 506 of the Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications on the procedure for issuing personalized viewers' cards), security bodies conducting verification have the right to refuse issuing FAN ID. In this case, the reason for the refusal is not reported to us”.

Brent says he doesn't understand it. 

“I have never been arrested, I do not have a criminal record and I have never caused trouble at football matches or anywhere for that matter. I am quite perplexed given I also attended last year's Confederations Cup without incident.”

During the qualifying campaign, Brent travelled to away games in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and Honduras, in addition to the 2017 Confederations Cup. He has purchased tickets to Australia's three group games and the round of 16 match if Australia was to progress to it. 

Brent has contacted both the Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh and the Australian consular office in Moscow, but has had no joy. 

“The Russian Embassy basically didn’t want anything to do with this despite sending them an email and calling them numerous times. The Australian consular office advised they are unable to assist or shed any light into the current situation.”

Another passionate fan who has had his FAN ID cancelled without explanation is Aaron Camm of Perth.

Aaron received his ID in March for it to be revoked last weekend also without explanation.

“When asking for more information, to be met with a stonewall is frustrating,” Aaron says. 

“I am not even able to find out why and to rectify the situation. How can I be deemed as causing any sort of trouble in Russia when I have limited mobility and would be sitting in the disability access section at the matches?

“I even had someone from the Russian consulate call my Wheelchair Rugby coach and double check that I had a disability and would I be able to travel around Russia independently. So why revoke it now? The whole thing doesn't make sense.

“I thought my biggest challenge this trip would be the poor disability access in Russia. Not this.”

Aaron's recent away travel has included Bangladesh, Abu Dhabi (on his way to the Rio 2016 Paralympics as a spectator) and Japan. He also attended most of the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia and was planning to be at the Women's World Cup in France next year. 

Interim Chairman of Football Supporters Australia, Pablo Bateson, says Brent and Aaron are owed an explanation, along with at least another three people of whom he is aware, whose FAN ID has been cancelled.

Pablo is concerned that there might be discrimination at play with Brent's and Aaron's cancellations. (Brent's birth mother is Sri Lankan). 

“Brent, Aaron and the other supporters are devastated. They are loyal, passionate, well-travelled Socceroos supporters and deserve to be at the World Cup. Their banning makes no sense,” says Pablo.

Both Brent and Aaron are hoping the decision can be reversed - again. 

“If I can't get this overturned, I will have to sell my tickets - if possible - and cancel my flights,” Brent says. 

Categories: People | Football Life | World Cup

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