“Football unites people all over the world, connects us and makes us happy. It's just like music. That's why I love both football and music, and they fit really well together," declared German pop star Oceana prior to her 18 September concert in the FIFA Fan Zone at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Azerbaijan 2012, highlighting the factors that make football uniquely appealing.
The third edition of the U-17 tournament kicks off in Azerbaijan on 22 September, with fans looking forward to a fascinating festival of football. But the festival will not be confined to the stadiums, as it will also thrive and come alive in one very special location. Since 15 September, fans of the game have been living out their passion to the full at the Fan Zone in the heart of Baku. The attraction is open until 13 October.
“I'm visiting the Fan Zone every day, either with my family or on my own,” said popular Azerbaijani actor Bahram Baghirzade, entering his name in the Fan Zone guestbook. “The stands run by the partners and national sponsors are very well set up and I love them all. I'm supporting the events organised by FIFA and AFFA. I'm a huge football fan, so I'll watch every match at the U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan.”
Fun and activity from midday till 22h
The Fan Zone on Seaside Boulevard opens daily at midday, and only closes at 22.00 in the evening. Visitors have the chance to show off their ball skills, and plenty more besides. Alongside the supporting programme laid on by sponsors, the main stage hosts a major daily concert at 20.00. A wide variety of national and international artistes such as Oceana, and a resident dance troupe, make for a relaxed party mood on Seaside Boulevard.
Visitors are invited to take the microphone themselves and showcase their vocal skills in a karaoke competition. The only condition of entry is that the piece performed must be a recognised football anthem, because everything at the Fan Zone is focused on the world's most popular game.
One of the busiest attractions is the mini pitch, available for use throughout the day, and already the venue for a number of exciting games. The reduced size “sacred turf" is far from the only centre of activity, as a range of quizzes call on fans and families to test their knowledge, with prizes for the top scores.
A very special place
“I'm here for the first time," visitor Iftikhar Shamilov told FIFA.com. “I really like the Fan Zone, especially the quiz. I've never watched women's football before, but the atmosphere here at the Fan Zone has made me curious. I'll definitely be watching the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup."
Shamilov's comment reflects the fact that the Fan Zone is also a main centre for celebrating the tournament. For those who cannot be at the stadiums, it is the perfect place to watch the action at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, with Azerbaijan's matches to be shown as Public Viewing events on a giant screen. The same applies to the games in Lankaran, the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final.
“I keep coming back here with my grandchildren," said Nazim Agayev, a keen footballer as a youngster. “They’re really enjoying it and like spending several hours here. It's always full here at the Fan Zone, and most of the visitors are young, so the Fan Zone is the best place for youths to spend their leisure time."