Health warning issued to World Cup fans

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2006, 12:00am

Updated at 5.45pm:
Hong Kong soccer fans should take care of their health while watching World Cup matches live overnight - and avoid fatigue, poor eating and excessive drinking, the Health Department warned on Thursday.

The World Cup 2006 will kick off on Friday night (Hong Kong time) with the host, Germany, playing Costa Rica in Munich.

In the space of 31 days, 32 teams will play 64 matches culminating in the final in Berlin on July 9 to compete for the world champion title.

The matches will start at several time slots between 9pm and 3am the next day, Hong Kong time.

The World Cup is traditionally very popular with Hong Kong people who generally prefer to watch soccer rather than rugby union, rugby league or American Football.

Many people often stay up late to watch many games and this can be a problem in the territory for those who often have to work long hours and do demanding jobs. Because of the time differences a number of the key World Cup games will be shown live in Hong Kong late at night or in the early hours of the morning.

While a lot of Hong Kong people will watch the matches in their homes on television, many public bars, clubs and karaoke parlours will also be showing the games.

The 2006 World Cup is also the first time in Hong Kong that legalised soccer gambling on the games will be possible. Soccer gambling was decriminalised in 2004 and since then there has been concern voiced by some social groups about the impact soccer gambling is having - particularly among low-income people and even some younger Hong Kongers.

A telephone poll conducted last month by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has shown considerable interest in the upcoming matches among people in the territory.
But the poll also showed that 28.7 per cent of survey respondents said they would place bets on World Cup games.

This included 18.2 per cent of all those interviewed, who were not usually interested in betting on soccer. Half of the respondents believed the trend of soccer gambling was growing in Hong Kong.

A department spokesman said it was important for football fans, staying up for the matches, to maintain healthy eating and get sufficient sleep.

'Insufficient sleep can lower your immunity and make you prone to illnesses. It will also affect your work performance and subject you to higher risks of accidents and injury,' he said.

Snacks and alcoholic beverages could add festivity to the event. But football fans were advised to avoid excessive consumption of them.

'Snack only when you are hungry. Do not snack for the sake of snacking. Avoid fatty and sugary snacks such as potato chips, candy bars and buttered popcorn,' the spokesman suggested.

Cigarettes and excessive alcohol should be avoided. Fans should not gulp down their drinks but sip slowly, the spokesman said.

'Never drink and drive. Use public transport.'

Fruits and vegetables are healthy food. Juices without added sugar would be good beverages, apart from water and plain tea, the spokesman said.

He also advised fans to ensure good ventilation in their residences, to take breaks and exercise while watching the matches.

'Watching soccer matches is not enough. Do some exercise. Strike a balance between watching matches and fulfilling your social commitments,' the spokesman said.

The DAB has called on employers to allow staff to work flexitime during the soccer World Cup as more than 60 per cent of people surveyed said they would watch matches broadcast at midnight.

The call came after a telephone poll carried out last month by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong showed 60.4 per cent of people interviewed said they would watch the matches. This included those who were not soccer fans (33.4 per cent of the total).

The DAB warned that people who planned to spend the whole night watching soccer would be exhausted. This would harm their health and undermine their work performance.
For further details on the health tips, call tel: 2833-0111 or visit the Central Health Education Unit's website:

World Cup special report: