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World Cup fervor grips China
Published on: 2010-06-12
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June 12 (Xinhua) -- Li Xiaomei knows little of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but she has been infected by the World Cup fervor that's sweeping the globe all the same.

Li sells flags of different nations at an international trade center in Yiwu, the world's leading wholesale market of small commodities, including toys, souvenirs, stationery and many other daily consumer goods.

"I have to watch the game results closely to decide which countries' flags to order," she said.

Since last year, Li has received huge orders from Chinese and foreign clients for flags of the football superpowers, including Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, England, France, Portugal and Argentina, as well as this year's host country, South Africa.

She's expecting more orders after the top eight teams are decided.

For at least a year, the World Cup, which opened in Johannesburg Friday, has stirred the Chinese and been a "gold mine" for acute business people in the east China town.

From jerseys and sneakers to footballs and even wigs matching the colors of national flags, merchants in Yiwu have embraced an unprecedented buying spree from home and abroad.

"Sometimes we run out of supplies," said Zhu Haiyan, whose store sells sports jerseys and socks. "Just last week, an Arab client dropped an order for 5,000 jerseys of the Brazilian team because he couldn't wait."

Many products are also selling well in China, as fans don outfits of their favorite teams and fight the time difference to stay awake after midnight.


For weeks, a posting has spread widely on the web and via mobile phones about the "dos and don'ts" during the World Cup.

The posting said in a half-demanding, half-joking manner that women -- who in most urban families have a larger say in domestic issues -- should leave their husbands alone during the games.

"Everything belongs to you: the house, the bed, the child, the dog and all the housework. But the TV is mine and football is its only program. If you want to watch TV, do wait until after 4 a.m."

"Do study some football basics if you still want to have a word with me. Otherwise, stay away from the TV. If you really have to pass the screen, do crawl on the floor instead of blocking my sight."

"Do make sure to store enough food and beer for me and my friends in the fridge."

"Don't tell me I've witnessed that goal -- I need to relive those exciting moments again and again."

Despite the male-centric tone, the posting has been well received by women either eager to share the excitement or sympathetic to their husbands' four-yearly craze.

"I'll watch some of the games with him," said Wang Yan, an accountant in Beijing. "When I get bored I'll just sleep or join my girlfriends for a chat or karaoke."

Online forums of leading Chinese portal websites keep updating the posting with basics of the ongoing World Cup and all participating teams, to keep lonesome wives -- dubbed "football widows" -- from feeling bitter.

"Say you love the Spanish team for its aggressive manners on the field, not its handsome players," was a piece of most frequently quoted advice for young women.

"Just be tolerant. The time he spends in front of TV may still not add up to the time he waits for you outside the fitting room," one of the updates reads.


With a six-hour time difference between Beijing and Johannesburg, Chinese fans will have to watch the games at the cost of a good night's sleep.

In a recent survey conducted in China's largest city, Shanghai, 9 percent of the 2,400 respondents said they had decided to take their annual vacation in advance for the World Cup.

Another 23 percent said they might ask for leave when they have stayed up too late.

More than half of the respondents said they would manage to enjoy the games and be punctual at work, according to the Oriental Morning Post, a Shanghai-based newspaper.

Though they all hope the China team would again one day qualify for the World Cup, almost 70 percent of the respondents said they were quite "happy" China was not playing this time.

"It'd be a loss of face even if we were," said Shanghai football fan Liu Bo. "We have to admit that our team is too far behind the world's top teams."

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