20 October 2018
Hong Kong shopping malls are catching World Cup fever but just how many fans will have the time and interest to watch the matches? Photo: East Point City
Hong Kong shopping malls are catching World Cup fever but just how many fans will have the time and interest to watch the matches? Photo: East Point City

World Cup and the sound of more than one fan napping

You say goal, I say lights out.

All eyes will be on 20th FIFA World Cup tomorrow. But wait, that’s more than a bit too much of an exaggeration. Just how many eyes will actually be open and staring at the screen at 4am in Hong Kong over the next month?

The World Cup is probably the biggest subject of marketing hype in sport. No doubt 32 nations will compete to be the best football nation on the planet but it’s doubtful the play will be world standard.

True football fans know that the tournament with the highest level of play is UEFA because all the world’s highest-paid players compete in it. That’s followed by the English Premier League, although there’s an argument that the English tournament been overtaken by Spain’s La Liga.

It is also doubtful how much these superstars have left to show after an intense eight-month season. One thing is for sure — these players are not going to give 100 percent and will be careful to avoid injuries ahead of the start of the next season.

Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, would probably have more fun, and more importantly, experience more teamwork, playing at Real Madrid than his fourth-ranked Portugal team.

And who has the time to watch?

Here in Hong Kong, just about everybody, especially in Central, is busy doing something. Counter to the usual trend, the stock market has risen with the temperature. IPOs are back and giving fund managers stock concepts to think about. They were distracted for just a moment yesterday when Taiwan goddess Lin Chi-ling managed a five-minute appearance at an IPO briefing.

Real estate brokers are busy too. Over the weekend there will be two residential sales — one in West Kowloon and the other in Tai Po — after Cheung Kong (Holdings) had strong sales in Tsuen Wan. Gone are the days when these agents had to stand outside shopping malls fishing for clients — now they have to work overtime to ride the sudden boom.

Apart from stockbrokers and property agents, forex traders are the only likely Hong Kong audience for the World Cup. They will have a few moments to spare after the New York market close.

Politicians have even less time to give. Government officials are rushing to get legislation passed so they can take some time off for the summer, and pan-democrats are knocking their heads together to think up ways to promote the June 22 universal suffrage e-ballot before the July 1 march. The pro-establishment camp has got a break from filibusters but they need to spend a little effort brushing up on their English. Only Leung Kwok-hung, aka Short Hair, is free but he’s behind bars with no chance to watch matches.

Mainland tourists would probably prefer to stay home and watch it all on free-to-air rather than come to Hong Kong and have to pay for the TVB feed.

President Xi Jinping is on record as a football fan so the South China Sea disputes and the anti-corruption drive could go on the back burner for the next month. With China not in the finals, my money is on Xi going for Russia.

For the rest of us, we’ll get up early as usual and have a breakfast of cereal sans beer. It’s a fair bet that no matter how many people start the day by asking if you watched the World Cup, very few will have done so themselves.

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EJ Insight writer

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