World Cup fever has gripped sports lovers everywhere, but world power China is noticeably absent from proceedings. The Chinese team did indeed fail to qualify for the tournament in Brazil, after being knocked out of a regional qualifying round in 2011. Since then, Chinese fans have been disheartened with the country’s lack of progress at an international level, a stage on which they have yet to triumph.
But, in spite of the fact that they’re not in it to win it, the Chinese population has responded to this year’s event with excitement and enthusiastic interest. The following for international football has grown within China in recent years, just as interest in the home grown Chinese football league has intensified. Still, the obvious nationalist appeal of the World Cup is something that is deeply frustrating to legions of dedicated football fans who will be watching on from the bench.
The most ardent fans are waking up in the wee small hours just to get a glimpse of the fine game play on offer. Media outlets have reported on Chinese workers taking paid leave to coincide with the games or others simply not showing up to work. Some managers have also reported that work place productivity has ebbed lately (although this is probably the same everywhere around the world!). A few lucky workers have even twisted their company’s arm into implementing a staggered work schedule to allow for employees to work late and arrive late. Talk about dedication!
The attraction to the spectacle also brings with it unparalleled commercial revenues. Advertising revenue for the Cup on Leshi, one of the nation’s biggest video sites, is set to pass RMB100 million yuan ($16 million), according to executive Qiang Wei.. And CCTV, the state TV station, could earn as much as RMB1.5 billion yuan ($240 million) in revenues, a massive increase in profits compared to the last World Cup.
Stars such as Pele have also been spotted in Beijing, a sign that big money is flowing into professional promotions and sponsorships. The former Brazilian player and international icon was helping sponsor a Beijing based electric bike manufacturer who was obviously getting in on the Cup fever.
Since the competition began in Brazil, dedicated Chinese fans have been getting together for viewing sessions in their homes, school dormitories, and in bars, many of which have decided to stay open late so patrons can watch matches live. The passion for the game is intense and justified; and it will no doubt give China all the incentive it needs to qualify for the next Cup.
However, not all of these newfound fans are the real McCoy. A popular post on Baidu, China’s largest and most used search engine, noted that some have recently begun using the word “wei qiumi” (“fake soccer fans”), referring to casual viewers who care more about the hype and pomp than enjoying the game play. Now that’s the kind of passion only the world game could invoke!
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