World Cup Fever has taken over China. It’s pervasive in the media, merchandising, and, of course, the bars. In no way, is the World Cup as big in the U.S. as it is in China. The World Cup is a huge part of life here in China for the next month. Stay up all night watching games? No problem. To call off sick here, you need an official hospital note, which you can obtain online from various nefarious sites. The article in the paper yesterday said that interest has surged for these notes so that people can watch football all night and call in sick the next day. There is even a special insurance policy offered for Cup excesses. The article in China Daily today details how for only 48 cents U.S. (3 yuan) you can get the “World Cup hooligan insurance package” guaranteed to compensate you up to 10,000 yuan if you are attacked or robbed by thugs while out partying hard during Cup games. Another policy pays out for sickness caused by alcohol poisoning to cover inpatient and outpatient costs.
Why the rabidly scary interest here? China didn’t qualify this year and has only appeared in the World Cup once in 2002–can’t even imagine the partying going on then. While there is great international presence here in Beijing due to the Embassies, from what I have read, the Chinese will root for anyone except Japan. The drink deals are plentiful–buy 5, get 1 free on beers could be renamed the “good luck walking home” offer. At the fake market, the sellers were doing a huge business in selling football shirts in all sizes. You want it, they got it–“lookey, lookey, best friend” discount and all. At the Blue Frog, my new favorite Western style restaurant, they even have a machine counting down to the opening with an embedded Kinect to play soccer games while dispensing special edition Budweiser Beer World Cup bottles–what an all purpose machine!
The Blue Frog manager quickly looked up for me when the US plays–at 6 a.m. this coming Tuesday vs. Ghana. I am hoping that my Shanghai TV package gets these games live. I get to go home tomorrow! CCTV has boots on the ground covering tape delayed games but as much as I would love to work on my Chinese, I would love to hear the game announced in English. So, I’ll be up early cheering on my US team and dodging the early morning drunks on the Shanghai streets as I go to work and the World Cup partiers struggle to make it home in the morning hours. Work? No Way-not for them for at least a month and even then it might take another month to get the alcohol out of their blood system. Party on, World Cup Fans!