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World Cup fever sweeps Beijing

By Bai Ping | China Daily | Updated: 2014-06-20 07:20

World Cup fever sweeps Beijing

Pang Li / China Daily

World Cup fever sweeps Beijing
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Soccer World Cup fever has gripped the nation. At first puzzled by Chinese fans' enthusiasm, Bai Ping has become more sympathetic to their plight, reasoning that they are simply seeking out what they can't find at home.

On Sunday evening, when my family and I arrived for a dinner with my in-laws at a Beijing restaurant, I was surprised to see sitting at the head of the table my wife's father who, proudly wearing a soccer shirt, chatted enthusiastically about the soccer World Cup with my brother-in-law.

I was afraid the old man, who is still recovering from an operation for cancer last year, had been staying up to watch the games like young soccer fanatics. The time difference of 11 hours between Beijing and Brasilia has forced local fans to watch the games at unearthly hours, with the majority of games in the tournament starting between midnight and 6 am Beijing time.

But I didn't ask him because mentioning that I forbid staying up late in my own house, even for the World Cup, was not a particularly cool thing to admit. During the dinner, when I checked WeChat on my cell phone, I saw a colleague had posted a picture of her 7-year-old son slouched on a couch, with the proud proclamation: "My son watching his first World Cup game, he's becoming a man!"

As the tournament takes hold of an army of Chinese fans, arguably the world's largest, each match is watched by millions of Chinese. Only days after the World Cup started, the Internet is already abuzz with reports of many students skipping important tests, husbands ignoring wives and excited enthusiasts dying from diseases exacerbated by watching too many games.

There are many theories about the Chinese love for the World Cup men's soccer. While Chinese fans traditionally tended to root for home teams at international competitions due to national pride, their interests have transcended national borders and ideologies thanks to the globalization of sports and sophisticated media technologies.

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