An opening World Cup victory for Brazil was as sweet for the team, the home fans watching in Central and Wan Chai as it was for the handful of pubs and bars open for the tournament.
Soccer fans poured through the doors of the few establishments they could find open and showing the 4am kick-off for Brazil versus Croatia.
Overnight taxi drivers remarked how trade for their services and among bars “collapsed” for the first match of the tournament.
More than 50 Brazilians gathered at de Belgie bar on Elgin Street, the official hangout for Brazil and Belgium soccer fans during the tournament, as they watched the opener from Sao Paulo.
Banker Marcos Fonseca, 49, said: “Football is a religion in Brazil. For us, it’s exciting and the national team is something we look forward to watching, especially on World Cups.
“From Hong Kong, we don’t see much Brazilian football here, and whenever the national team is on, this is a priority.”
But only 11 minutes in, the cheers for “GO BRAZIL” fell silent as Croatia bagged a goal thanks to a Marcelo own goal.
Personal trainer Priscilla Diniz, 32, wasn’t going to give up. “It is tough to stay up late but we do everything for Brazil to show our support for them outside Brazil.”
Yonnie Yeung Yuen-yee, marketing and communications director of de Belgie, said: “Whenever you’re in a sports bar, you’re showing the live games, you are going to have people coming in from everywhere, so its not difficult to get a big group of people coming in.”
But an inspection along Hollywood Road, Lan Kwai Fong in Central showed no more than three bars screening the World Cup live.
Web editor Steve George found restitution in Delaney’s on Luard Road. He hit out at a so-called World Cup branded fan zone in Lan Kwai Fong which, instead of showing the tournament, opted to screen American comedy-drama Glee instead.
Brazil’s consul-general remarked before the opening ceremony: “It’s too late for dinner and too early for breakfast, but at least the beer [in de Belgie] is good.”
It was standing room only in Al’s Diner in Lan Kwai Fong. General manager Hartwig Harvey said he expected half the number of people.
“To be honest, I’m very impressed that a lot of people turned up and I wasn’t expecting this turnout, and people are loving it.
“We’re one of the few that are going to stay open and I think we’re going to be all right.”
Julien Hérbert, 30, blasted the “ridiculous” restrictions on showing live soccer games on television. “In places like Wan Chai, where people want to sincerely enjoy the games, for some reason cannot, and are put off by the hefty rights fees.”
Stuart Cox, 40, tipped a “coffee and orange juice” combination for watching the games overnight and no beer whatsoever to still be fresh for work just hours after the games finish.
He said the overnight screenings for soccer would be valuable training for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 held in England, with many of the games screened overnight in Hong Kong.