MUSCAT – The ‘Oman World Cup Programme’ is pleased to announce the details of the upcoming Football Fan Festival, which will bring the excitement of the World Cup to Muscat. Taking place at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) Gardens from November 20 to December 18, 2022, the festival will offer exciting contests, activities, competitions, food stalls, live broadcasts of all matches, and more.
Speaking on the upcoming festival, HE Azzan Qassim Al Busaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism and Head of the Steering Committee overseeing the Oman World Cup Programme, said, “We are on schedule to be ready in time for the World Cup. Once open, the festival will be an exciting destination for both local and international football fans and non-fans of all ages. For our international guests, it will also play a crucial role in showcasing what makes our country unique and special.”
The CEO of the OMRAN Group, Dr Hashil bin Obaid Al Mahrouqi, added, “The Football Fan Festival is not just about celebrating the World Cup and the sport of football, but also about celebrating Oman. As the centrepiece of the ‘Oman World Cup Programme,’ the festival offers us the perfect opportunity to engage with our guests, both locally and from abroad. We hope they leave knowing a little more about our beloved country, its storied history, breathtaking beauty, and renowned hospitality.”
An area of more than 9,000 square metres at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre Gardens will be dedicated to the Football Fan Festival, which will feature a specially constructed fan village catering to all ages. The festival grounds will be divided into several zones, each catering to one core aspect of the celebrations, ranging from dining to activities and matches.
The Festival Zones
Located right at the entrance, we have the ‘Food Zone’ where visitors can sample cuisine and tastes from all corners of the globe. The festival will have as many as 12 dedicated F&B outlets, all SMEs, showcasing the many wonderful tastes of Oman. Moreover, some of them will be changed regularly, ensuring that return visitors always have something new to try; while at the same time, providing as many SMEs as possible the opportunity to participate.
Following the ‘Food zone’ will be two ‘Activity Zones’, each with a dedicated five-a-side football pitch. These two zones will feature over 22 interactive football-themed mini-games and activities for families and people of all ages to enjoy. Some highlights include:
The Panna Cage: A one-on-one arena where budding footballers will attempt to take their challengers to ‘skill school’;
ICON Fast Feet: an opportunity for visitors to show off their fast feet by taking part in a skills challenge;
Precision wall: Combining both passing and shooting in a fun accuracy challenge;
Target kick: Score at the top corner and win the top prize. Everyone’s favourite football game;
Speed kick: A measure of sheer power and an opportunity to earn those highly sought-after bragging rights;
E-Games: For the ‘gaming chair’ lovers of the sport, a bespoke PS5 zone will be a key feature;
Human Table Football: A fun real-life human version of table-top foosball.
The final zone will be the ‘Football Theatre’ where all 64 matches of the World Cup will be broadcasted live, in partnership with beIN Sports. The matches will be shown on three large screens with grandstand seating as well as at other viewing areas around the fan festival area. Moreover, each of the festival screens can stream a different match independently of the others. Thus, guests will be able to see all World Cup matches even if they are played simultaneously.
There will be several contests and incentives organised before and during the Festival, both on-site and online. The first is a Football Fan Festival E-World Cup, an online e-sports contest that will kick off on 20 November. The initial qualification matches will be held online, and the final knockout stage will be held on the festival grounds. The quarter-final matches will be on December 17 and the semi-finals and finals on December 18.
The festival will also play host to the final round of the ‘Football Fan Festival Championship for Students – KS1’ organised in collaboration with the Directorate General of Education in the Governorate of Muscat. The tournament will take place from November 21 to December 17, 2022 and will involve 800 students from 80 schools. The final rounds will take place at the festival five-a-side football pitches on December 13 and 14, with the finals on December 17.
Blending Culture and Technology
Blending the perfect mix of history and culture with tech and innovation, the Football Fan Festival will look to integrate new technologies wherever possible. This will be most obvious in the Virtual Reality zone, where fans can experience life in VR and test their football skills as virtual versions of themselves. A two-way portal will also be present, allowing fans to connect with those on the outside – waving hello to friends in other locations and allowing them to see all the festival action.
The Football Fan Festival will welcome well-known musical stars, comedians, dancers, and performers. Football freestylers, roaming circus performers, and the odd special guest will entertain the crowds between the matches. The programme will change every day and it is recommended to follow the festival’s website and social media channels for the most up-to-date information on programmes scheduled for each respective match day.
For those interested in shopping, Oman-based artisans, makers and SMEs will be invited to exhibit and sell their products at bespoke souk-like shopping areas and souvenir shops, located between the zones. Critical to the success of the festival are the nearly 100 volunteers and over 120 SMEs across 60 categories involved in its organisation and running. The organisers are also working closely with the Oman Tourism College to provide students with an opportunity to participate in the event.
The Football Fan Festival has appointed Oman’s football icon Ali Al Habsi as the official brand ambassador alongside favourite sports personalities Khalil Al Balushi, Fatma Al Nabhani and Mohammed Al Noufali. They will all join the Festival’s promotional activities and on-site activations. To ensure the event is accessible to everyone, the entrance fee will only be OMR 2 per person (free entrance for children five and below).
Considering the nominal entrance fee, thousands of visitors are expected daily. There are, however, a limited number of tickets available each day. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all fans and their families pre-book their tickets whenever possible. Football Fan Festival is now accepting pre-bookings for all match days via its website. The festival grounds will be open on all Wold Cup match days one hour before the day’s first game and close after the day’s final one.
The event organisers have also spared no expense to ensure the safety and security of all attendees. The team has installed fire extinguishers and CCTVs throughout the festival grounds. Metal detectors and members of the ROP will be at all entrances. There will also be a well-trained health and safety team on site and a 40-strong crowd management team. They will be supported by over 70 security guards stationed throughout the festival grounds in addition to civil defence paramedics, nurses, ambulances, and firefighters to attend to any emergencies.
Tickets are now available at www.footballfanfestival.om
Besides the Fan Festival, Oman has taken several steps to welcome overseas World Cup 2022 travellers, beginning with a free 60-day multi-entry visa for all Hayya Card holders and their immediate family members. There will also be a range of exclusive hotel packages, tourism products and special tour rates available for visiting fans.
For more information on the Football Fan Festival, please visit https://www.footballfanfestival.om
Photos: V K Shafeer