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Asia

World Cup fever grips Asia

From Beijing to Bangkok, from Kolkata to Kuala Lumpur, everyone has been gearing up for the month long spectacle, keen to find out who will become the new world soccer champions.

Both South and North Korea are competing in the soccer championship in South Africa

Both South and North Korea are competing in the soccer championship in South Africa

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet. In Asia, the interest in the tournament is not only huge in Japan, South Korea and North Korea – the participating nations – but across the whole continent.

A massive growth in TV audiences is expected in China, India and Southeast Asia. Brazil, Argentina and England have particularly big fan followings, and people will stay up late to catch their favorite sides in action.

Mike Rehu, a senior producer for the TV channel ESPN-Star Sports in India expects the viewership to grow substantially. "We have been trying to develop football in India as a sport and obviously as a revenue earner for us as a company for the past 10 years, predominantly through the English Premier League.

Even India's cricket star Sachin Tendulkar loves football

Even India's cricket star Sachin Tendulkar loves football

"We believe that if we keep pushing football to the Indian people, especially with the overexposure of cricket as a game in the market, it has a really good chance of catching the imagination of the public. We hope to go to 60 to 70 million homes over the next four weeks and to drive football home as a major sport in Indian viewers’ minds and hearts."

World Cup fever in Kolkata

Kolkata is currently the heartland of football in India. The journalist, Amitabha Das Sharma, can feel the excitement rising in the so-called "City of Joy".

"World Cup fever has really picked up here. It is visible everywhere. You can see the flags and colors of different countries in the lanes and by-lanes of our city. People of all age groups are really keen to see the matches. India isn’t playing so people are supporting different countries – that’s the charm of it."

Meanwhile in Singapore, Sean Tan is happy that finally he’ll be able to watch the tournament live on TV after a late deal was struck.

The English Premier League has triggered a growth of interest in soccer in Asia

The English Premier League has triggered a growth of interest in soccer in Asia

"For the longest time, Singapore was one of the few countries left to sign up with FIFA for live broadcasts and a lot of the population here was waiting with baited breath," he recalls.

"We were wondering if we are going to have to watch the World Cup in a neighboring country or through some other means, but fortunately FIFA and the broadcasters here managed to reach a deal and we are going to get live screenings. I think companies are all preparing to have staff come in blurry-eyed the next morning. Pubs and night spots are all gearing up for a big celebration. We are looking forward to that very much."

Surprise qualification for North Korea

Among the participating Asian sides, Japan and South Korea were always expected to qualify for South Africa. The surprise Asian entrant is North Korea whose football team is almost as unknown as the country itself.

North Korea's national soccer coach Kim Jong-hun

North Korea's national soccer coach Kim Jong-hun

Coach Kim Jong-hun recently said that "perhaps there is no other team in the world that will be fighting with the same dedication to please the leader and to bring fame to the motherland."

This also shows under what pressure the players are to perform well. North Korea faces tough opponents in its group with Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast. But football historians still remember the World Cup in England in 1966 when North Korea defeated Italy.

Author: Arunava Chaudhuri
Editor: Anne Thomas

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