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Fanzones – the future for football fans

Spanish and Russian fans braving rainstorms on Thursday night to cheer their teams playing kilometres away bore witness to a phenomenon that has now become a fixture for any major tournament: the fanzone.

sports Updated: Jun 29, 2008 23:45 IST

Spanish and Russian fans braving rainstorms on Thursday night to cheer their teams playing kilometres away bore witness to a phenomenon that has now become a fixture for any major tournament: the fanzone.

Undeterred by thunder and lightning, and with her team battling Russia in the stadium in the Austrian capital for a place in the Euro 2008 final, there is no way Eleonora Mendez from Madrid would have been anywhere else.

“This is such a big moment for me and I couldn’t get a ticket,” said Mendez who travelled from Munich where she studies at the university.

“I simply had to be close by, I want to be with everyone else, and the atmosphere, the party -- it’s just not the same when you sit at home.”

Having millions of people gather in town centres to watch soccer matches on big screens is a relatively new phenomenon. It is also one that looks like it is here to stay.

The fanzone craze took off at the 1998 World Cup hosted by France, where local organisers put up screens in the main town squares to give ticketless supporters a chance to join in the soccer frenzy.

Amazed by the tens of thousand of locals gathering, cheering and partying in the streets, FIFA organisers decided to develop their own concept and cash in on the new phenomenon.