At the height of the summer, the 2018 FIFA World Cup RussiaTM Local Organising Committee (LOC) came up with a memorable gift for the residents of Kazan and it’s guests, giving them all the chance to get a feel for the colossal event that will be Russia 2018, a whole five years ahead of the tournament. From 4 to 17 July, as part of the 27th World University Games, one of the city’s main squares, on the embankment by the Farmers’ Palace, hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup Park.

There was something for every football fan who came to the Park, whatever their level of footballing experience and passion. The smallest fans could paint themselves in the colours of the Russian flag, draw enormous footballs or simply take their first steps in the game by kicking a ball.

For more active visitors, there were several open-air attractions, such as a precision shooting contest and two different types of table football. As well as “classic” table football, visitors could also test themselves in a larger-scale version using an inflatable football pitch.

All visitors to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Park had access to a marquee with interactive entertainment, where they could try on paraphernalia worn by football fans from around the world, test their knowledge in a quiz on the history of the FIFA World Cup™ and give it a go as a football commentator by describing some of the competition’s greatest goals. The visitors who produced the most skilful commentaries were awarded prizes by journalists from national television and radio.

“I’ve always dreamt of becoming a football commentator,” said Ilnur, a five-year-old boy who came up with one of the best commentaries on a goal scored by Zinedine Zidane in the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final in France. “Now I’ll try even harder to make my dream come true. One day I’ll be a real World Cup commentator!”

Over the two weeks the Park was open, there were more than 150,000 visitors, i.e. more than 10,000 visitors a day or, on average, one in every 10 people from Kazan. Among those who visited the Park were Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Tatarstan leader Rustam Minnikhanov, players and coaches from Russia’s national student football team and other Russian sports stars.

Another visitor to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Park was Russia’s sports minister and Russia 2018 LOC chairman, Vitaly Mutko, who highlighted the extra interest the people of Kazan and its guests were showing in Russia 2018. “I’m really pleased to see so much enthusiasm among Russians in anticipation of this massive festival of football,” Mutko said. “I’d like to thank you for your support. The 2018 World Cup Park has been a sort of prelude to the FIFA Fanfests that will be taking place in the Russia 2018 Host Cities at the same time as the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and will give everyone the chance to sample the unique atmosphere of this tournament, which our country will be hosting for the first time, a whole four years early!”

Kazan was the first of the Host Cities to declare its 2018 FIFA World Cup stadium open. The stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2013 World University Games. In 2017, the arena will host matches at the FIFA Confederations Cup, and then Russia 2018 matches the following year.