The world basketball capital of Belgrade, Serbia became the proud owner on Thursday of the single-game record for attendance at an indoor basketball game in European club history! Officially, 22,567 fans packed Belgrade Arena for the Last 16, Week 5 game between hosts Partizan and Panathinaikos of Greece. Both teams had already qualified to the next round, the Quarterfinal Playoffs, but were still fighting to finish first in their Last 16 group. With it's incredible crowd behind it, Partizan won 63-56, but it was not enough to displace Panathinaikos from first place.
"We know well that it is not easy to sell 20,000 tickets. That is a heavy task even for pop stars," Partizan head coach Dusko Vujosevic said prior to the game. "If we needed proof for our success, this is the proof...We have an obligation to our fans. I believe they could show that their support can move the team even in a huge arena like this."
A change of venue had been granted for the game from Partizan's usual home court, the 7,000-seat Pionir Hall. It is not known whether Partizan will seek the same change to Belgrade Arena for the upcoming playoffs, when it will have at least one home game. "Outstanding atmosphere," said one special member of the record crown, Serbian national team head coach Dusan Ivkovic. "This is the best audiance I have even seen. I am sure that Belgrade Arena is even louder than Pionir."
The record crowd was considerably bigger than the previous two highest-attended European indoor club games on record: 18,518 fans for Telekom Baskets Bonn vs. Alba Berlin in Cologne Arena for a German League game on April 7, 2000 and 18,500 for Panathinaikos vs. Tau Ceramica at OAKA in Athens for their third Quarterfinal Playoffs game on April 12, 2006.
"Crazy," Partizan teenager Jan Vesely said afterwards. "I've never seen anything like this in my life. I was dreaming about this kind of night as a boy and my dreams came true tonight."
The world record attendance for any basketball game, indoor or outdoor, is believed to be the Cup Winners' Cup final between AEK Athens and Slavia Prague on April 4, 1968 at the ancient marble Kallimarmaro Stadium in Athens, Greece, where 80,000 were seated for the game as an estimated 40,000 more followed from outside.