|A panoramic view of the Antwerp arena during the 2010 game between the Giants and Liege, with 13,000 fans watching in the stands (Photo: Walter Saenen)|
One thing cup competitions on any level have in common is that they attract more attention from the fans and the media towards their latter stages, i.e. the semi-finals and the final.
It is not so common for a quarter-final tie to turn into the talking point of the competition, especially when the outcome seems to be an almost foregone conclusion after the first leg.
The innovative Belgian club Port of Antwerp Giants though, thought it doesn't need to be this way.
Even before their impressive 31-point win away at Spirou Basket Charleroi in the first leg of the Belgian cup quarter-finals, they decided to make an event of the return leg, this coming Wednesday.
They will do so by trying to establish a new record at the Sportpaleis Antwerp Arena, regardless of the end result of the game.
The club is all but certain they will break on Wednesday the all-time attendance record for a basketball game in Belgium, with a full house of 14,000.
The club's certainty is based on something more concrete than good intentions.
"With the help of our sponsor, Port of Antwerp, and the management of Sportpaleis Arena we organized a media campaign and offered free entrance to the general public. People could request a maximum of six tickets per email address and the tickets went on offer on our website on 3 February at 9 a.m.," the Giants' media office said in a statement.
"It was remarkable: At 10:04 am, all tickets were gone, meaning they were reserved. We asked people who had not been able to get tickets to register on a waiting list. In total we have presently a demand for more than 29.000 seats!"
There is nothing sinister behind the Antwerp Giants' move. The club is the current holder of the record anyway, with 13,000 fans watching their home game against Liege in the 2010 Ethias League play-offs.
"The inspiration to organize this game was, first of all, the success of the previous game in the Sportpaleis in 2010. A number of our fans, the general public and the authorities were basically asking to repeat this spectacular event," the Giants' statement clarifies.
"Moreover, we feel this is a great promotion for basketball in our region in general, obviously the intention to create a special atmosphere in the Sportpaleis Arena that day to make it an unforgettable celebration of basketball."