Schools set for football fever
By Jonathan Powell
When the sun rises next, the sports extravaganza that football fans around the world have waited for will have begun.
The 2006 Fifa World Cup will kick off in Munich, Germany, at midnight tonight when the hosts take on underdogs Costa Rica, following the opening ceremony.
The month-long event - which takes place every four years - will be celebrated with global fervour, and despite the late night kick-off times in Hong Kong, we will be watching.
The football theme will be promoted in shops, karaoke bars, and restaurants, and friends will gather to watch the matches in a party atmosphere.
Lack of sleep may be an issue for local fans, however. Many of the daily matches, especially in the knockout stages, will kick off at 3am.
In an effort to discourage students from staying up, one school has even arranged for recorded match highlights to be shown during lunch breaks.
'All our students love sports, and many are football fans and will want to watch the matches so we have made special arrangements,' said Edmond Hung Chor-ying, PE teacher at YCH Tung Chi Ying Memorial Secondary School in Ma On Shan.
'We want to have a healthy World Cup, and we have discussed this issue in staff meetings. We don't want students coming in bleary eyed and unable to stay awake.'
Schools are encouraging students to manage their time carefully during the exam period which runs until June 20.
'We hope they will select the matches they want to watch carefully,' said Kenny Yip, sports master at Diocesan Boys' School. 'We hope they will record the late night matches, and watch them after their exams.'
While schools are preparing to embrace the World Cup, commercial outlets are promoting the theme to increase sales.
Starting from June 16, the Harbour City mall in Tsim Sha Tsui will host a month-long three-a-side football tournament on its multi-purpose court at SportX in the Ocean Terminal on weekends. Prizes for the winning teams include $20,000 GigaSports
and adidas cash coupons. Check www.harbourcity.com for details.
Highlights of the previous night's World Cup matches will be shown on screens inside the mall from 8am to 8pm daily, and big friendly inflatable football characters will roam around.
At the Times Square mall in Causeway Bay, there will be a FIFA showcase exhibition on the second-floor lobby. The giant screen outside will show live matches in the evenings, and highlights from the night before throughout the day.
Karaoke chains are offering special passes (discount prices) for the daily matches, and for the semi-finals and quarter-finals. There are even passes available for the full set of 64 matches.
Sportswear stores are offering special gifts with soccer-related purchases. The GigaSports store at Harbour City will display a range of footballs used at past World Cups.
Cable TV, which has the broadcasting rights for all the matches, will host a nightly carnival at the Hong Kong International Trade & Exhibition Centre in Kowloon Bay.
More than 15,000 (over 500 per night) soccer fans will join the Cable TV commentators to watch matches live, and participate in party games.