17 September 2019
The stars are missing in action this year at the July 1 march and the World Cup. Photo: EJ Insight
The stars are missing in action this year at the July 1 march and the World Cup. Photo: EJ Insight

How is the July 1 demo like the World Cup?

Answer: You can’t sleep this morning if you took an interest in it.

For one thing, both went extra time. The annual demonstration on the handover anniversary was an eight-hour march this year, up there with the marathon viewers endured to cheer the Netherlands and Costa Rica to victory.

As the excitement began in the World Cup knock-out round, three of the eight winners (Germany, Argentina and Belgium) went the full 120 minutes, while Brazil and Costa Rica won on penalty kicks. The Netherlands sealed the deal in the last two minutes of extra time.

The road to the finals is tough and so is the road to universal suffrage.

Whether the crowd was the 510,000 estimated by the Civil Human Rights Front, the 172,000 by the University of Hong Kong, or the 98,600 by the police, each member of the demonstration walked in 34 degree heat and thunderstorms to express their humble desire for democracy.

And where were all the superstars when you needed them? For the World Cup, Neymar from Brazil and Messi from Argentina disappointed their fans by going missing in the clutch situation.

The same could be said in Hong Kong. Absent from this year’s demonstration was Short Hair Leung Kwok-hung (who must have been climbing up the prison walls with boredom without the distraction of the matches or the march) and Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, whose non-presence was all the more notable because his Apple Daily had promoted the demonstration over the past two weeks.

For many retailers, the World Cup and July 1 protest amount to the same negative effect on business. People who have stayed up late after hours and spent the day sleeping instead lunching and shopping resulted in less revenue for malls. Ditto for protesters, who skipped retail therapy for hanging out in Hennessy Road consuming nothing but water.

There were unavoidable clashes in the match, as in the march, but let’s hope that all parties will find a way to reconcile, just as Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini did by tweeting to apologetic Uruguay biting striker Luis Suarez that “it’s all forgotten. I hope FIFA will reduce your suspension.”

So, are we good for a happy ending? This Saturday and Sunday morning we shall be finding out the final four in the World Cup and that could be a good time for the different camps – be they pan-democrats, pro-CY or the police – to grab a beer together and cheer for Columbia and Costa Rica to work a miracle to oust Brazil and the Netherlands.

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EJ Insight writer