Getting kicks out of a struggle with soccer
Updated: 2014-06-20 07:20
By Kurt Nagl (China Daily)
Soccer fans in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, dress up to cheer their favorite teams at this World Cup. Dong Jinlin / For China Daily
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I skyped with a buddy from back home a few days ago in a Beijing cafe, and we talked sports for a good hour. As two loyal sports fans, we hit all the important points.
"Did you see the German absolutely dominate the field at the US Open?"
"How about them San Antonio Spurs?"
"Our beloved Detroit Tigers are losing momentum, eh?"
Not once was soccer even mentioned. In fact, I had forgotten all about the World Cup until I strolled out of the cafe and was showered with reminders of the planet's most popular sport.
Around my apartment, every alleyway is laced with flags from competing nations. Banners and stickers clutter subways, buses and business windows. Bars are packed with people watching the games that will dominate screens for a month.
China did not even qualify for the tournament. The first and only time the country qualified was in 2002, and the team failed to score a single goal.
Yet China has the highest number of World Cup viewers in the world, according to the FIFA Television Audience Report. In 2010, the country accounted for 328 million of the total 2 billion viewers of the tournament.
Meanwhile, many Americans do not even know the rules of the "beautiful game", much less how the World Cup works. For the 2010 World Cup, US viewership totaled only about 3 percent of the world total even though the country qualified for the tournament.
See Hot Pot Column for more stories by expats in China