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Walter Sim
Friday, Jun 20, 2014

Sports

Cup fever at bars, CCs & McDonald's outlets

The Straits Times | Walter Sim | Friday, Jun 20, 2014

Football fans watching the opening match at a McDonald’s restaurant outlet in Ang Mo Kio on 11 June 2010. The fast food chain is screening all World Cup matches for free at 34 of its 24-hour outlets.

SINGAPORE - An hour before the kick-off of he Germany v Portugal match at midnight yesterday, the Holland Village Food Court was packed.

Part of the 300-strong crowd of locals and expatriates, some in singlets and shorts and others in business wear, spilt onto the road outside the 24-hour coffee shop.

Some found chairs. Over at Bavarian bar restaurant Brotzeit at Raffles City, the German crowd, in white jerseys and splashes of yellow, black and red, were also getting ready by downing dark lagers.

Brazil may be 16,000km and a day-long plane ride away, but World Cup fever has taken hold of football fans here just the same.

Since the tournament started last Friday with Brazil taking on Croatia, thousands have been making their way to community centres, restaurants and pubs at strange hours to be part of the "Beautiful Game".

Be it midnight, 3am or 6am, many park themselves at one of the 30 community clubs, 38 Mc-Donald's outlets, or a variety of pubs and coffee shops islandwide to soak up the action.

Scores turned up for the Group G crunch match between Germany and Portugal, which ended 4-0 to the three-time champions.

At Sengkang Community Club, 700 people caught the match - 500 in the multi-purpose hall and the others sitting around a television screen set up outside.

At Brotzeit, when the Germans went ahead with a penalty, beer glasses flew off the table as fans pumped their fists in the air in triumph.

Cue more shouts of "Deutschland, Deutschland" as Die Mannschaft went on to score two more by half-time. With his team leading 3-0, German intern Denis Richter, 24, simply flashed a wide grin and a double thumbs-up when asked about his team's performance.

He added in jest, that his favourite goal was "the sixth one".

For many people, football was not the only draw - it was also the camaraderie, said Italy fan and credit-card salesman Iskandar Norsham, 24.

"I love the interaction among people. Strangers give each other high-fives when a common team they support scores. That is how people can bond, and how people can get together," he said.

Agreeing, 30-year-old delivery rider Rasyid Fuad, said the loud cheers made him feel as if he was "there at the stadium".

Added a 38-year-old shop assistant, who gave his name only as Mike: "This is the next closest thing to actually being at the stadium."

Work or no work the next day, some fans will still go.

Retiree Sahrudin Madon's hotel employee son and polytechnic student daughter sometimes join him to watch the games. The 55-year-old said: "If it's a midnight game, it will not affect them so much the next day because they can still go home and sleep."

Media analyst Hu Yee Kai, 28, watches at least one match a night. He said: "I try to sleep earlier and wake up to watch the games... So far, my productivity has not been affected, but that's also due to the nature of the work I do. I suppose if I were a doctor it would be different!"

Some places have seen brisk business, along with the speedy dribbles on World Cup pitches.

Jess Ong, who runs the Holland Village Food Court, has seen revenue increase by about 50 per cent since the tournament started.

Whatever the hour, be it weekday or weekend, the coffee shop has been packed. The Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina match at 6am on Monday drew a good turnout, for instance.

"It is especially so for matches featuring well-known footballers (like Lionel Messi for Argentina)," she said, adding: "We get a fair mix of local and international customers, who can drink and eat together here. For instance, when England were playing, we saw the Brits here and when Japan were playing, we saw a lot of Japanese."

But yesterday morning was quite the anomaly - only a few stuck it out for the 3am Group F tie between Iran and Nigeria, which ended in the tournament's first goal-less draw.

Fewer than 30 people showed up at Holland Village, while barely 50 remained at Sengkang CC for the match. At the Downtown East McDonald's outlet, only about 10 people caught the match.

Iskandar, the salesman, was not surprised by the low turnout given the "low-profile" players.

But he was game for Iran-Nigeria, nonetheless: "I'm a die-hard football fan, so I get excited about matches, no matter who is playing."

waltsim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 18, 2014.
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