Asian football fever – Euro 2012
“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.