Outside China Central Television’s headquarter in Beijing, a young and apparently angry wife was smashing a flat screen TV. The reason? Her husband has been staying up late to watch the “beautiful games” in Brazil.
“World Cup or E cup” is a dilemma that many of China’s male football fans have struggled to balance in the past few weeks. This young Beijing lady is only one of the millions of upset wives or girlfriends in China during the 2014 World Cup.
Yesterday in Shanghai, 12 ladies, including a pregnant one, staged an anti-World Cup protest, asking the FIFA to “give back they boyfriends.” They are primarily pissed about two things: 1) their partners neglecting family responsibilities due to late-night game watching; 2) reckless gambling on games.
“We are house-wives. We don’t want to be angry and dissatisfied World Cup-wives.”
Despite the fact that China never had a competitive men’s football team, the country’s football fever never deflated. In fact, even when all the games are taking place after midnight Beijing time, Chinese fans still find ways to enjoy the show in Brazil, such as purchasing fake sick-leave doctor notes. Some companies even adjust working hours to ensure productivity of those who stay up late for games.
In the past few weeks, it’s almost impossible to leave any Chinese news portal sites without noticing options to bet on World Cup games. To anyone who knows China as a country where casinos are illegal except in the former colony Macao, it’d be a big surprise to find out that reported Chinese bets on the 2014 World Cup totaled $642 million already.
But all the fever remains almost male exclusive. It may sound like stereotyping, but professional sports such as football is still a guy thing in China, despite the fact that Chinese sportswomen are just as competitive as their male counterparts, if not more.
More women are picking up football, but most of them are not watching for the sake of the game. One female netizen explained: “I’m only interested in hot football players.” Another shared her reasoning: “I’m watching the World Cup only because I want to be with my boyfriend when he is watching.”
Weeks before the 2014 World Cup, cheat sheets of how to sound like a “true football fan” started to make the rounds on several Chinese social networking sites, giving women tips of how to have an “informed” conversation about football with their partners. One of them starts like this: “Sisters, with these fast facts, you will speak the same language as your football fan boyfriends.”
And to many Chinese men, whether their partners are willing to share, or how much they’d tolerate, their passion of the World Cup, is also a test of love. One husband commented: “[The World Cup] is once every 4 years. If a woman loves her man, she’d let him do whatever he wants during the short period of time.”
There have been reported deaths due to deprivation of sleep during the World Cup, or because of huge money loss in game gambling. In a sense, relationship is the least of all that the “beautiful games” are “ruining” in China.