China not at World Cup, but they’re still football-crazy

A multitude of Chinese share one dream: that Team China will one day win the Football World Cup.

 

Published by
CNN
on June 18, 2014
In the 2014 World Cup, thirty-two of the world’s best football teams competed for the iconic golden World Cup trophy. But for all the Chinese interest in football, it is a huge source of frustration that they can’t field a competitive national team. Indeed, a multitude of Chinese — from the state president, to Peking University students or Beijing taxi drivers – they all share one dream: that Team China will one day win the World Cup.

China only reached the finals once back in 2002, but their debut was quite demoralising. Still, these setbacks have not dampened their football fever. “There is a huge following for international football in China because local fans celebrate global talent,” said Kronick, a long-time Beijing resident who plays football in a local amateur league.

Chinese football fans have been enjoying the action in Brazil despite matches taking place after midnight, in Beijing time. By hook or by crook, they were finding ways to watch the live games. Some took paid leave, others found excuses to stay home. Some managers said work place productivity has dropped lately. A few companies have simply conceded defeat, agreeing to a staggered work schedule to allow for some employees to stay late, and come in late. “The World Cup matches are played in the wee hours,” said Wang Chen, a venture-capital manager. “If the staff can’t get good sleep, work will be affected, so I pushed back working hours, hoping to arouse their work enthusiasm and efficiency.”

The World Cup matches are played in the wee hours. If the staff can’t get good sleep, work will be affected, so I pushed back working hours, hoping to arouse their work enthusiasm and efficiency.”

“The World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet, so regardless of where you are in the world, you can’t escape the excitement and passion surrounding the event, and China is no exception,” said Misha Sher, director at MediaCom Sport. Sher credits football’s popularity in China to an increasingly popular Chinese professional league, and to the extensive media coverage of top-level players and games through TV and digital channels.

Since the month-long competition opened in Brazil, legions of Chinese sports fans have been gathering for viewing parties in their living rooms, in school dormitories, and in restaurants and bars, many of which have opened late for the fans to watch matches live on Chinese television. Enthusiasm for the game brings commercial windfalls. Given the interest generated by the World Cup, many companies are tapping into the passion and emotion created by the competition to connect with consumers. The competition for advertising and commerce is not limited to sports brands. On the eve of the World Cup, an electric bike manufacturer in southern China brought Pele to Beijing to jump on the World Cup bandwagon.


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Published in Confucius Institute Magazine
Number 33. Volume IV. July 2014.

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