WORLD CUP 2014: ITV’s Fever Pitch Fan Park reviewed

There’s nothing quite like the emotional roller-coaster created by the England football team in a World Cup competition, and in years gone by us England fans have really had it all – none more so than in South Africa in 2010.

The pre-tournament optimism and anticipation. The weight of expectation from England fan’s up and down the country. The opening pre-match nerves. The elation as Steven Gerrard puts England 1-0 up after four minutes. The shock horror at Robert Green’s blunder and the draw against USA which follows. The continued frustration as England struggle against Algeria. The disappointment at only picking up a point. The doubts over whether Capello’s men would actually qualify. The nerves before kick-off in the final group game against Slovenia. The happiness when Jermain Defoe scores the all-important goal. The huge sigh of relief as England scrape through.

The new-found belief that England could now push on from here. The confidence that we may actually progress. The reality check after reading who we were to face in the Round of 16. The pre-match nerves (again). The anger as Frank Lampard’s goal was wrongly disallowed. The injustice as Germany capitalise and take the lead. The growing apathy as Germany make it 3-1, then 4-1. The heartbreak as England once again fail to struggle in the knock-out stages. The realisation England’s World Cup is over. Clearly, it’s not easy being an England fan.

Yet unlike the disappointment you encounter in football with the domestic club you support, following England and international football in general is made that bit easier knowing that together, millions of England followers up and down the country are sharing the same emotions as you. And although we’ve focused solely on England, ITV’s Fever Pitch is there to capture all the elation, all the heartbreak and the consequent disappointment (usually in that order for England) this summer for the 2014 World Cup. Based at the old Granada studios in Manchester, the ITV Fever Pitch fan park offers a unique opportunity for visiting football fans.

Not only can you join fellow England fans on England match days in sharing the game together and watching the events unfold on a big screen based within the grounds of the iconic studios, but with every World Cup prior to the 11PM kick-off’s broadcast live, there is also the opportunity to immerse yourself fully into the tournament with the other participating nations and mingle with their fans within the fan-park.

After managing to grab myself a ticket in the pre-sale to the second night of the tournament for the tie of the round so far, an evening which seen reigning champions Spain toppled by incoming Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal and his very impressive Netherlands side, it soon became clear that ITV’s Fever Pitch is the next best thing to watching the tournament unfold in Brazil; epitomising everything about this summer’s competition. With an obvious attention to detail, ITV have nailed everything about their fan park to a tee. Think Rio De Janiero (without the humidity).

For those visiting, you’re sure to get an authentic taste of Brazilian culture despite being over 5500 miles away from the host country itself. Whether it be the carefully selected caterers in the form of regionally based and highly acclaimed Brazilian themed restaurant Bem Brasil, the Copacabana-esque beach placed within the grounds of the studios not solely for the beach soccer played daily in between both evening matches but also if you just want to sit back, relax and enjoy the football, or simply just the use of the Portuguese language on things such as the toilet labels which combines with the continued theme running throughout the park to create an authentic taste of Brazil and its culture.

And as with any fan park, without loyal football fans there certainly wouldn’t be any such demand for a fan park. Therefore it’s evident throughout that a lot has been done to really create a warm, friendly and inviting atmosphere for visiting fans wanting to immerse themselves into the 2014 World Cup. Although the live World Cup games broadcast on several screens throughout the park make up the majority of the entertainment for the evening, credit must be given for the daily showcasing of beach soccer in between both of the matches taking place at 5PM and 8PM.

I was even lucky enough to witness a thrilling encounter between Italy and England’s men’s beach soccer teams and although it was the Italians who maybe tempted fate in their convincing win over England even in the beach soccer competition, for somebody whose beach football experience consists of kicking a fly away football to my brother and next seeing it being swept away into the sea, seeing it played in such a way really did open my eyes up to another variant of the beautiful game.

Aside from the supplementary beach soccer to an already busy evening of World Cup football, the party atmosphere didn’t stop there. With visiting cheerleaders, Brazilian themed dancers and a live samba band contributing to an already electric atmosphere within the fan park, largely helped by both a mixture of a live MC and an abundance of  interactive entertainment involving the crowd at every opportunity, Fever Pitch really did focus on more than just the football and clearly a lot of preparation had been made to cater for all audiences, young and old. For the very young children in the crowd, there’s the opportunity to mark the day with a photo with a life-size statue of 2014 World Cup mascot ‘fuleco’.

For those of a slightly older age, there are also areas where you can test your football skills in a number of interactive games and competitions ran throughout the duration of the tournament. For those who wanted perhaps wanted to get as close to the action and party atmosphere as possible, the very clever idea of not only opening the beach soccer pitch up to the public but also in the offering of deck chairs and picnic blankets to watch the football at a closer distance really created a warm atmosphere between the visiting general public and a real sense of a fan community, brought together by a love of football. And with various other interactive features dotted around the park itself including the opportunity to stand in front of a replica interview board as if you’re trying to justify why England have been knocked out in the group stages, there really is something for all the family.

All in all, Manchester gets it right. After stories in the past with live televised football suffering from technical difficulties notably in the 2008 UEFA Cup final between Rangers and Zenit St.Petersburg, ITV Fever Pitch has built on the success of the live televised England games at Castlefield Bowl during the 2010 World Cup and with it revolutionised the idea of watching live football on a big screen.

Not only have ITV succeeded in bringing the Brazilian culture a little closer to home, but with it they’ve also managed to bring together people of all ages, no matter whether you’re fanatical about football or just want a taste of what the World Cup has to offer and created a fan park where there really is something for everyone. Not only is the fan-park is a modern attraction but as all good music festival does, it offers something away from just the main attraction of live broadcast football. Working alongside Manchester City Council, ITV have successfully took a worldwide sporting event and turned it into a fantastic evening out for everybody no matter what your age or generation is and it has truly captured the authentic community and fan based spirit of the World Cup competition – a rarity in modern day football.

And with the football set to be as unpredictable as ever, one thing you can rely on is ITV’s Fever Pitch fan park being the real deal, a stroke of genius by all those involved in the organisation of such a wonderful installation for the 2014 World Cup. Just make sure to brace yourselves – as it is definitely going to be emotional.

@talkingtikitaka

See our pictures taken from ITV Fever Pitch on our Flickr Album: Click Here

For more information about ITV’s Fever Pitch and how to get tickets, visit: http://www.itv.com/worldcup/feverpitch

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