Soccer-Dresden fans buy 72,000 tickets for match in empty stadium

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(Reuters) - German third tier side Dynamo Dresden said they sold more than 72,000 'ghost' tickets for the cup match at home to Darmstadt on Tuesday, even though the match was played in an empty stadium.

With fans barred from attending due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dresden decided to put tickets on sale at five euros ($6.08) each and appealed to fans to buy them out of solidarity.

Even the former East German champions were surprised when 72,112 'ghosts' bought tickets, nearly three times their average attendance last season and over twice their stadium's capacity.

Dresden said on its website that it would have been the third-biggest crowd ever to watch one of their games.

Lower tier sides in Germany have been especially hard hit by having to play matches without fans -- known in Germany as 'ghosts matches' -- during the COVID-19 pandemic as they depend more heavily on gate receipts than Bundesliga teams.

"Every Dynamo can be proud of this. That is certainly unique in Germany," said Dresden striker Philipp Hosiner.

It did not all go to plan for Dresden, however, as their second division opponents cantered to a 3-0 win while a planned choreography involving 30,000 biodegradable balloons had to be cancelled due to high winds.

($1 = 0.8221 euros)

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)