Asian football fever – Euro 2012

Davey Meelker

“Sports brings people together” is often said. This doesn’t only count for people actually playing the sport. Likewise, it isn’t even limited by the fact that your team or country is participating the games, I recently found out. Asia is infected by the European Championship fever.

People in Asia love football. When we were in a remote part of Sumatra in Indonesia a few months ago, we started talking with a local guy on the bus. Soon he asked us if we liked football and which team we supported. When I replied that I’m a fan of Ajax we were astonished by what he said: “if your team keeps up like this they will become the champion. It is great to see that players like Van Rhijn are developing so well, especially when other defenders like Verthongen and Van der Wiel are being sold.” I was amazed. Not only because he predicted Ajax’ championship, but Van Rhijn is a really young unknown player who just played few games in the Ajax squad at that time. As we speak Ajax is busy with selling the players Verthongen and Van der Wiel. A person in the Sumatran middle of nowhere might have known more about my team than I did.

Then the start of the European Championship came closer. This is always a hype in Europe, but it is similar in Asia and they aren’t even participating! The Singaporean television was announcing the games months before the start to warm us up. Every night, the Hong Kong pubs had the games reserved for football lovers. That most of the games were broadcasted at 2:45 am did not matter.

In Thailand we had an interesting conversation with a monk about Buddhism. He explained us a lot about his religion, but suddenly turned the conversation in a complete different direction. “I can’t wait for the start of the European Championship, I will stay up to watch all the games!” he told us. And before you know it we were talking about the tactics of the different teams. That the games were broadcasted in the middle of the night could not stop him, even though he had to get up at sunrise to collect food regularly.

Even the devoted monk was caught by the Euro 2012 hype. He liked the teams, but as a good Buddhist he did not support only one country and just liked the game itself. He would be happy for anybody who wins the cup (although his bright orange robe begged to differ). Nevertheless, he expected that our country, The Netherlands, would do well.

Unfortunately, the monk’s prediction was wrong. The Netherlands lost all its games. Especially the game against the biggest enemy, the Germans, was huge blow. And, of course, it covered the Chinese front pages. Tea houses, bars and all kinds of shops showed reruns of the games. Summaries of the games were even shown on screens in the subways.

People in Asia can get crazy about the Euro 2012. Local media in China reported the death of a football fan that died after eleven days with no sleep missing no single game.

It is amazing that so many people are following a European tournament, sometimes in unhealthy ways. In Europe I never followed the African, South-American or Asian championships. Is it because many Asians look up to Europe? I believe they sure do even though it almost never makes any sense. Some would say it does make sense in this case. All locals we asked why they liked the European Championship so much replied that they just love the game and the European football is so much better than in Asia. I have to admit that is true. But then again, why loving a sport so much which is so badly performed in your country?

I don’t know what the cause of their football addiction is. What I do know is that from Indonesia to the north of China people are glued to the television in the middle of the night this Sunday to watch the European Championship final.

5 responses to “Asian football fever – Euro 2012”

  1. Lyndol says :

    According to my knowledge it is true that not many young boys go to prefessional football training. Many football fans don’t play football themselves, and they are not reluctant to send their children to play football.

    I guess what is ingrained in our minds is that we respect intellectuals more than sportsmen. Chinese students are busy preparing for exams; If you are not determined to be a professional athelete, you may forever lose the chance to get professional training. After all, football player is not a promising occupation in China.

    • Sanne says :

      Great reply! I think that on the long run (and short run for that matter) a country is best off with more intellectuals than wannabe football stars, so good for China!

  2. Sanne says :

    Yeah, I do see why Chinese people might be less good at basketball or track and field, but Football, they can do that just as well as their European counterparts. Maybe because it just isn’t so ingrained in the culture of the country? I know most young boys in the Netherlands spend some time in their youth in a football-team, is that also the case in China? I don’t think so. Or am I wrong?

  3. Lyndol says :

    “why loving a sport so much which is so badly performed in your country?”

    A very good question to the Chinese. I myself as a Chinese know that if asking any of my football fan friends which country does he/she support, he/she will surely give two answers, of which one might be Germany, Spain, Italy or Brazil, and the other must be China.

    Chinese fans are used to seeing their country earning more and more championships. The government-led training system paid really much effort. For track and field or basketball matches they know it’s hard for the yellow-skin to win because of different body figures and talents, but they still see Liu Xiang and Yao Ming have become international stars. So for football, they believe that it’s mismanagement that made their team badly-performed. More and more news disclosing corruption in the circle deepened their doubts. But they still believe that football is a sport created for all passionate men.
    (Sorry I use THEY, since I am not a football fan)

    Anyway, we’re disappointed with a lot of things in our country, not only football team. 🙂

  4. frank meelker says :

    Leuke blog Davey. En het anwooord is wellicht heel eurocentrisch dat in Europa verreweg het beste voetbal wordt gespeeel. Interessant natuurlijk wanneer het moment komt dat Aziatische voetballers niet meer voor de Europese competitietie worden opgekocht maar andersom. Kan nog wel even duren. Frank

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