World Cup fever grips Chinese soccer fans
Updated: 2014-06-16 07:20
By Zhang Fan (China Daily Latin America)
ALL FOR KICKS
Some Chinese football fans traveled all the way to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the opening game of 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Arena de Sao Paulo. PHOTO Provided to China Daily
"I almost cried when I was surrounded by football fans celebrating the World Cup. Wherever I look there are people wearing uniforms of Brazil's national team, I am so excited," Qi Yue told me outside a restaurant near Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
It was 4:30 in the afternoon, 30 minutes before the opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Avenida Paulista, the commercial center of Sao Paulo, used to be the most crowded street of the city but now looks rather empty and quiet. All the stores are closed except for one or two restaurants filled by football fans staring at the television to wait for the first whistle.
Qi managed to get a seat in a crowded bar near Avendia Paulista. "Please let me in, I cannot stand to miss any goal of this game!" she begged the doorman of the bar who laughed and found her a table.
Qi, 23, is a new graduate of the Communication University of China, majoring in Portuguese. She volunteered to be the interpreter for a Chinese media team so she can travel with them to Brazil during the World Cup.
"I don't need to be paid at all because I have already got free flight tickets which are too expensive for students. I just need to be here," she said.
Qi will fly to Brasilia for the game between the first team of group E and second team of group F. "It is so hard to get a ticket because there are so many people fighting for it. I am one of the lucky ones I guess. 'Gol'!" Qi said as she is cheering together with Brazilian football fans for the first goal of Brazil's team at the opening game.
Though the foreign media has been frequently criticizing Brazil's security problem and its prolonged stadium constructions, about 8,000 Chinese football fans have flown to Brazil just to enjoy the largest festival of football.
Key words like "tips for watching World Cup in Brazil" and "Brazilian cuisine" are very popular on China's websites: the search results of "Brazil World Cup" on China's largest searching engine Baidu, is almost 100 million.
"I must come to Brazil for the World Cup because it has been a dream since I was a child," said Tong Yong, a football fan from Nanjing, Jiangsu province, "I am almost 40 years old, and I need to take the chance to feel young again."
Unlike Qi, Tong's budget for the World Cup is more than $24,000 including the flight tickets, hotel and local transportation. He will stay in Brazil for nine days to watch four games.
"It is indeed very expensive, but I think watching World Cup in Brazil is totally different from other countries because it has the most enthusiastic football fans and many football stars. I believe the culture here will bring me a unique experience," said Tong.
The 2014 World Cup is full of surprise for him. He came across an old friend at the stadium for the opening game and found they were sitting next to each other.
"I was astonished when I found the woman sitting beside me is an old friend, we have not met for 10 years and I have no idea that she is now in Brazil. We shouted and cannot believe it is real," said Tong.
To meet an old friend in a place 20,000 miles away from China might be a good example of how many Chinese are attracted by the World Cup in Brazil. China's National Tourism Administration said more than 100 million Chinese will travel abroad in 2014 and Brazil is attracting more Chinese travelers with an annual increase rate of 10 percent.
"Though the Chinese team is not here, Chinese football fans are here," said Tong.
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