Moscow officials urge fans to avoid fan zone

Moscow officials urge fans to avoid fan zone

Russia's fine show in the World Cup so far has attracted huge number of people to the official fan zone in the country. AFP

Football fans planning to watch Russia take on Uruguay in the World Cup on giant outdoor screens in Moscow on Monday should consider watching the game in bars and restaurants rather than at the official FIFA fan zone, local officials said on Saturday.

Russia's surprise success at the World Cup, going through to the final-16 for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has energised thousands of football fans across the country and the Russian side is due to take on Uruguay in the city of Samara on Monday evening.

Moscow's official FIFA fan zone, located on the Sparrow Hills campus of Moscow State University, has become a magnet for Russian fans who can't get to the matches but want to watch them on giant outdoor TV screens.

That has sometimes forced organisers to limit the number of people allowed into the fan zone, which has a maximum capacity of 25,000, drawing criticism from some Muscovites who say authorities in a city of around 12 million people should have been prepared for much larger crowds.

The Moscow mayor's office said on Saturday entrance into the fan zone would be restricted for the "most popular matches, which will decide the outcome of the tournament" because of the risk of overcrowding.

"The last few days in Moscow have been an unprecedented sporting celebration: the city has not seen such an influx of fans in decades," it said in a statement.

"Accordingly, fans are asked not to choose only Sparrow Hills to watch the games," it said. "It is possible to watch matches on additional screens which have been set up in the city. They are also being shown in many hotels, cafes and restaurants."

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nikolai Gulyaev, head of Moscow's sport and tourism department, said fans in the Russian capital would have more luck watching Monday's game in their local bar.

"In this case, you will not have to think about arriving two to three hours before the game," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

"There will be no queues for drinks and food, and the atmosphere of unity and intense football passion is just as good as in open-air fan zones."