With the football world cup in Brazil just about to start on Friday morning 4 AM Chinese time, I get asked by friends back in Germany the same questions time and again: How is it like to watch the world cup in China? What is the Chinese world cup experience like? Do they follow it at all?
In answering these questions, you’ll have to differentiate between the general atmosphere in the streets in Chengdu on the one side and certain places like bars and cafes prone to foreign (mostly “western”) football enthusiasts on the other side. With regards to the general atmosphere in the city, you barely see signs that the world cup is about to start. Images you may be familiar with in your home country – national flags in the streets, special world cup bargains in supermarkets and bakeries – are not that often seen here in Chengdu.
Well, this has something to do with the standing of China’s own football league and its national team. The fact that the Chinese national team is not participating in the world cup 2014 in Brazil doesn’t really help in creating a somewhat exhilarating world cup atmosphere. Due to their relatively bad performance in the world, the Chinese professional football league as well as the country’s national team have a very bad image among Chinese sport fanatics. There are quite a few Chinese, who follow European football leagues, but I have never met someone who talks well about Chinese football and this eventually has a soothing effect on the general atmosphere in the streets.
On the contrary, the Chinese Basketball league and its national team are considered to be performing better in the world. Chinese NBA stars like Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian have certainly triggered the fan support of basketball in China. That’s why quite a lot of Chinese people will rather chose to watch the world’s most popular basketball games also starting this week: the NBA finals.
However, when it comes to certain places in the city, I am still expecting a quite exuberant world cup atmosphere. There quite a few football maniacs from western countries among the 14 million people living here in Chengdu. You can already notice that Western bars, restaurants, and supermarkets (such as Carrefour) have started big marketing campaigns in order to attract Western (and Chinese) Football fans.
There is one really great place for watching football in Chengdu that can only been beaten by very few places in the West: The “Beer Nest”. The “Beer Nest” is a brewpub with fantastic self-brewed Indian Pale Ale and German wheat beer among many more classy beers from around the globe. For the world cup, they will put up two big screens and offer special Belgium import kegs for the cup final – can you ask for more?
There are football oases all around Chengdu, such as the Irish pub “Shamrock” not far away from our office, and a so-called “Fan Fest” held on the rooftop of a skyscraper downtown. We, at the Chengdu office at InternChina are very much looking forward to mingle with Chinese and foreign football fans from all around the world – I expect it to be a special experience for all of us.