World Cup fan zone in Belgium canceled amid little interest

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Belgian soccer federation has scrapped plans to set up a World Cup fan zone where supporters could follow Belgium games live on big screens amid a lack of fervor for the tournament in the football-mad country.

A week before second-ranked Belgium plays its World Cup opener against Canada in Qatar, the federation said Wednesday it has decided against setting up a fan zone — with other attractions as well as big screens — in the town of Vilvoorde.

“Since it was not possible for most fans to travel to Qatar, we wanted to bring the World Cup to them. But we sold far fewer tickets than we had planned, and it’s clear that at the moment, events with big screens are less popular than in other years," said Manu Leroy, the head of marketing and communications at the federation.

The fan zone, which had an “Arabian Nights” theme, was set to be open on Belgium matchdays during the group phase, as well as during the knockout stage, with tickets on sale for around $10 each. The federation said fans who had already bought tickets will be reimbursed.

Several private initiatives aiming at gathering fans of the Red Devils together have been canceled across the country of 11.5 million, where soccer is one of the rare activities uniting the Flemish and Walloon communities.

Earlier this month, plans for a huge World Cup indoor fan park in the town of Weelde in the Antwerp province were also abandoned after organizers failed to sell enough tickets.

Last month the federation told The Associated Press that, by Oct. 24, less than 900 tickets had been sold to members of the official supporters club of the Belgian team traveling to Qatar. The club has between 9,000 and 10,000 members.

The federation cited the fact that the World Cup in Qatar will take place during part of the northern hemisphere’s winter among reasons that could deter fans, alongside human rights issues and high prices.

Morocco and Croatia are also in Group F with Belgium and Canada.


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Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press