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Soccer-Berliners lug sofas to giant World Cup living room

Reuters

By Emma Anderson

BERLIN, June 16 (Reuters) - While others cram into crowded bars or squeeze around the television set at home, Berliners can follow the World Cup from the comfort of their own sofas in a stadium-sized living room on a 700-inch screen.

Berlin's Union Berlin soccer team, which plays in the second division, has turned its stadium into a vast "World Cup living room," allowing fans to transport their own sofa onto the pitch to watch the games for free.

At least 12,000 people are expected to watch Germany's first Group G game against Portugal on Monday, on up to 850 couches.

The an der Alten Foersterei stadium provides all the usual refreshments, including hot dogs and beer, but has thrown in a few home comforts such a couch table and a lamp for each sofa.

Completing the cosy feel is a huge wall around the screen covered in retro 1970s East German-style wallpaper.

Gerald Ponesky, organiser of the 'living room', said he was inspired when he heard fans at a game singing about the stadium as their 'living room, their home'.

"The idea clicked," said Ponesky.

Some have gone to great lengths to bring their sofas to the venue. Sascha Alexander, 32, said after reserving a spot on the stadium turf he bought two couches on eBay, rented a van, drove across the city and dragged them in.

"We live in a big shared apartment and we didn't want to watch the match at home," he said before watching Switzerland's 2-1 victory over Ecuador with friends on Sunday.

"We found the idea of a big living room comical."

Up and down the neatly-ordered rows of sofas, fans reclined on their cushions and blankets and rested their feet on the tables. Ponesky said some people feel so at home they come in their bathrobes.

"Watching a game on a giant screen on a sofa in a stadium is just crazy," said English 26-year-old Dale Bradbury, who now lives in Berlin. (Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Justin Palmer)

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