Muscat: Right from the moment it opened its doors on 20 November, till the final match of the World Cup on Sunday, 18 December, the Football Fan Festival, a part of the ‘Oman World Cup Programme‘, has proven itself to be a major success story. The festival exceeded all expectations, drawing in just over 92,000 football fans from across the country and abroad, with the semi-finals and finals matches being booked weeks in advance.
Of the 64 World Cup matches broadcast at the festival, the largest single match attendance was for the finals between France and Argentina on 18 December 2022, which saw over 5,800 fans cheering for their favoured teams. However, the largest number of visitors to the festival in a single day was the night of 06 December 2022, with just under 7,100 fans attending the pair of ‘Round of 16’ matches involving two popular teams - Morocco vs Spain and Portugal vs Switzerland.
Commenting on the success of the World Cup Programme, 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, “I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Qatar for hosting such a successful tournament. It is a matter of great pride not only for the host nation but also for each and every one of us that a historical event of this magnitude was seamlessly hosted in our region with such care and professionalism.”
He added, “On the other hand, the Football Fan Festival, which is one of the main pillars of the Oman World Cup Programme, was able to transfer the amazing atmosphere of the World Cup to the Sultanate of Oman, drawing thousands of visitors daily to watch matches, participate in activities and enjoy accompanying events in a family-friendly atmosphere. A perfect blend of entertainment and sport-related activities proved to be the festival’s greatest asset, and the reaction from the fans has been far greater than we expected.”
CEO of the OMRAN Group, Hashil bin Obaid Al Mahrouqi added, “Sports has always been one of the main factors that contribute to enriching the tourism sector and maximising the benefit from the tourism potentials that the Sultanate enjoys. This historic hosting of the World Cup in the region, coupled with the popularity of football in Oman, drove us to organise this unique festival that brings together a family and sporting event in one. We are happy with the great turnout we got daily and the thoroughly enjoyable atmosphere it created.”
When designing and implementing the Football Fans Festival, the Steering Committee of the World Cup Programme was keen to enhance the benefits small and medium enterprises (SMEs) received from this event, involving them at various stages. It paved the way for more than 90 SMEs to participate in organising the accompanying events and operations and operating the stalls at the Food Zone and the entertainment activities, all of which received a great response from participants and visitors alike.
The Football Fan Festival was divided into several zones, each catering to one core aspect of the celebrations, starting with the Sponsors Zone, followed by the ‘Food zone’ showcasing cuisine and tastes from all corners of the globe, two ‘Activity Zones’ that feature over 22 interactive football-themed mini-games and a dedicated five-a-side football pitch, as well as the ‘Football Theatre’ with giant screens where all 64 matches of the World Cup are being broadcasted live.
A special e-Sports Tournament was also organised in partnership with Golden Joystick, which saw the participation of over 140 gamers from across the country and had the finals broadcast live on the big arena screen on 18 December. Taking the cup at the tournament was Farhar Al Kindi, with Saleh Al Ghasani and Wisam Al Rawahi coming in second and third place, respectively.
In addition, the festival sponsored and hosted the award ceremony of the Football Fan Festival Championship for Students of Muscat Governorate Schools 2022. The tournament was organised in collaboration with the Directorate General of Education in the Governorate of Muscat and saw the participation of 96 teams (960 students) from all Muscat government KS1 schools. Ultimately, Hai Al-Dhahir Public School took the trophy, with Dagmar Public School coming in second and Muscat International Private School in third.
“I would like to extend my thanks to all members of the Oman World Cup Programme Steering Committee, foremost among them the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, our sponsors, all SMEs and businesses involved, the multiple teams and individuals, and the nearly 300 volunteers from Oman Tourism College and other volunteering teams and entities for their dedicated support in the organisation and operations of the Festival,” said Hashil bin Obaid Al Mahrouqi. “I also extend my sincere thanks to our partners Oman Air, Oman Airports, and to the ROP, the Civil Defence and Ambulance Authority, the on-site health and safety specialists, and security guards for helping us maintain the safety and security of everyone who attended. Last but not least, I would like to thank the football fans whose dedicated participation helped make the Football Fan Festival a tremendous success. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Over the past few days, a diversified programme of activities and events included a visit by several players of the Oman National Football Team as well as The National Youth Football Team. In a continuation of the thrilling surprises at the Football Fans Festival, the audience was treated to a special participation from The Steel Music Band of the Royal Guard of Oman and a concert by the singer Salah Al Zadjali, who performed on the closing day of the festival.