Football fan network Green and Gold Army head Mark Van Aken is packing his bags, ready to travel to Brazil with 450 Socceroo fans.
There’s less than one month to go for the thousands of Aussies preparing to trek to Brazil to support the Socceroos at the FIFA World Cup.
Mark Van Aken, who heads the Green and Gold Army, a football fan network that is selling packages to this year’s World Cup, says the company has been getting ready for the event for four years.
“We’ve been preparing for this since the last World Cup,” says Van Aken, whose is taking 450 Aussies to Brazil for around three weeks.
“We’ve had a couple of our guys over there three times in the last 12 months.”
Van Aken, who was involved with arranging packages to the World Cup in South Africa, the AFC Asian Cup and many Socceroo world cup qualifiers across the globe, says the biggest challenge faced when organising the Brazil packages was coming to terms with the size of the country.
Brazil is the fifth largest in the world – and at 8,546,000 square kilometres it’s bigger than Australia with a population of just over 200 million, again the fifth largest. The most practical way to travel between the host cities is on internal flights, which link most destinations several times a day.
But nabbing a seat on an internal flight has not been without its challenges, he says.
“There are four times as many flights between Sydney and Melbourne than there are between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and yet the populations are huge.”
And the steep prices of domestic and international air tickets surprised many sports fans, he says.
“The cost of the flights took quite a few people aback.”
The most direct flight route to Brazil is from Sydney via Santiago, Chile with Qantas and their affiliate LAN.
Other options are to travel via the Middle East or North America.
But despite return economy airfares costing between $3500 and $4500, this has not put the thousands of soccer fans off making their trip.
On a per capita basis, Australia tops all other countries when it comes to the number of tickets sold.
In terms of health, Van Aken is urging those travelling to Brazil to see their GP before they leave home.
There’s a risk of yellow fever from daytime mosquitoes in large areas of Brazil so tourists need to check their yellow fever vaccination status before travelling, and they should also seek advice about malaria tablets.
Another factor for fans to consider when travelling to Brazil is that it’s a pretty dangerous place to tour.
The Green and Gold Army has partnered with a destination management company in Brazil to ensure that all possible lengths are taken to avoid danger in the country.
“We will be moving in large groups and our team over there has done their homework on security.
“There are places we will avoid.
“It’s about having fun but also being sensible,” he says.