CHAN WAI-LENG is rewriting the bedroom rules today. Late-night telephone calls are banned. Television is sacrilege. Husband Wong Ying-kit? He gets to stay with his two TV sets - in the living room. Starting on Wednesday, the mother of two is declaring their bedroom a World Cup-free zone. And there is to be no foul play. 'We cannot watch television in the bedroom because our newborn child sleeps there with us. The noise will wake him up,' Ms Chan, 32, says. 'Besides, my husband likes to invite his friends around to watch football so it is better if they stay in the living room.' You bet they will. Until July 12, their lounge-cum-nursery in Laguna City will become a 100-square-foot common room where her husband's mates will share their beer, tears, cheers, and salted peanuts. Mr Wong is happy with this arrangement. 'I'll watch the games every night and morning. Luckily, I work on the late shift so I do not have to get up until 10 am. I am quite happy to sleep on the living room sofa in between games,' says the diehard soccer fan. Since the first match of the day kicks off in the evening (local time) and the second about 3 am, the 32-year-old social worker plans either to work or take a nap in between the two games. Is Mr Wong worried he might sleep through the early morning match? 'During the last World Cup, I used to turn the TV timer on and the volume up before going to sleep. When the television switched itself on, it just blasted on full volume and that woke me up instantly,' he says. And his neighbours, presumably. 'Well, we try to keep the noise down as much as possible. But the security guard did come knocking on our door once after my mate screamed in the early hours. I guess our next door neighbour complained.' If World Cup mania has not caught up with you yet, it will soon. Though the first kick-off is not until Wednesday, World Cup fever has already sent millions of soccer fans, punters and merchants into a pre-Cup frenzy. One Britain-based international bookmaker estimated its World Cup takings to exceed GBP100 million (about HK$1.26 billion). Locally, the event is simply an ample commercial opportunity to be exploited. On sale are France '98 World Cup T-shirts (and counterfeits), chocolates, cocktails, cakes, books, and competitions offering free World Cup tickets, footballs, watches and English striker Alan Shearer miniatures. Since both terrestrial television stations are broadcasting all matches live, neither is letting the most sacred event in this year's sport calendar slip by without kicking up a brouhaha. ATV is operating a phone-in game that offers prizes such as cars and air tickets. TVB has come up with its own World Cup tune. In The Adventures Of A Soccer Fan, Canto-pop singer Hacken Lee chants: 'Qi lai! Qi lai! [Get up! Get up! in Putonghua]', a slogan made famous by the old mainland military songs. China, incidentally, is not among the 32 teams playing but Mr Wong is not bothered. This soccer addict has already pledged his loyalty to the English squad. 'We just love watching the games. Luckily, there are a great number of us [soccer fans] out there, otherwise my obsession with football would be regarded as a pathological condition,' he says. His wife sometimes wonders. She says Mr Wong will stay up to watch any football match. Despite having a father who is an avid soccer fan, she cannot understand the motivation. 'Can't they just tape the match and watch it before they go to work? No one is going to know whether you have watched it live or not,' the nurse says. 'We have tiffs every now and then because my husband watches football all the time. I don't think it is good for his health. 'Also, we have two young children to look after. My daughter is three and my son is only six weeks old. 'If my husband stays up late watching football, who's going to take care of the children when they wake up early in the mornings?' Not Mr Wong - at least for the next few weeks. He will be catching up on his sleep. Ms Chan concludes: 'I think men can sometimes be very irresponsible.' She should be thankful she is not married to either Jimmy Tang Chun-leung, the chief editor of Ball King Weekly, or the creator of comic book Top Goal (Chi Goal Mo Dik) Kam Siu-man, whose strip also appears in Oriental Daily News and Mad Dog Weekly. The World Cup is about to turn their days around. Kam will be watching every game to gather material for his nine-month-old strip, which is about a fictitious football team and includes stories and jokes based on real-life games. Mr Tang, 31, says his six-week-old publication is going daily this week as an evening paper, and his team of 20 is expected to work throughout the night and sleep in the day. 'Our newspaper is a source of information for local football fans. It includes everything that has to do with the World Cup,' he says. The paper's 'analysis' also includes a table of odds - though it does remind readers, in fine print, that bookmaking is illegal in Hong Kong. Mr Tang says: 'Our newspaper reports more than just what happened during a game but also the gossip, what's happening around the world and what bookmakers are saying. Other local papers also publish the odds so there is nothing unusual in that.' Bookmaking has always been an integral part of the local soccer community but bookmakers say the exercise has only caught on with the public over the past couple of years. Punters can place bets here and overseas. Last week, tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun was preparing for the launch of football pools in Macau, 48 hours before the opening game in France. Bookmaking is also available on the Internet. It may be illegal, but this kind of betting is conducted privately and often over the phone. It usually goes unmonitored or undetected. A local bookmaker (or 'banker'), who not surprisingly does not want to be named, says many punters prefer to place bets with him because no deposit is required. 'They just call me up and place their bets,' he said. 'If they win, they come and collect the money; if they lose, they have to pay up. That is why I only deal with regulars; this system is based on trust.' Bookmaker Victor Chandler International, which runs a company in Gibraltar for clients around the world, says it expects its turnover for the World Cup to be more than GBP100 million. 'Because of the clients we have, it will be at least 50 per cent up from the previous World Cup,' says Mr Chandler. How much business does his operation get from the SAR? 'A lot,' he says. 'For football alone, about 40 per cent of total bets come from Hong Kong [via telephone betting].' The Home Affairs Bureau, however, says the law states clearly it is an offence to place bets with bookmakers. But a bureau spokesman falls short of saying telephone betting is illegal. 'We can't say whether it is an offence or not. That is up to the court to decide,' he says. 'The Government's stance is to discourage this kind of betting. It also stresses overseas betting is not protected by local laws.' For Kam, who supports Argentina and Holland, it is not the betting but the 'humour' of football games that interests him most. The 36-year-old says the soccer fever is more than just a fad. 'People have asked me whether my comic would lose its appeal once the World Cup was over, I told them football was a popular game here and Hong Kong's interest in football will not diminish.' Indeed, sports pubs around Hong Kong are expecting an upsurge in business in the coming weeks despite the fact that supporters can stay home to watch the games. Yet for some, the World Cup on screen is not enough. One expatriate England supporter has forked out $10,000 to fly to France and has taken three weeks off work to watch five games, two of which will be England matches. But for Mr Wong, his living room - where he will be recording some games for his father-in-law - will have to do. So, what does football mean to him? 'It is very important to me,' he says, chuckling. 'Other matters, if they are not urgent, can wait. I prefer to watch these games as they happen. I can't explain that feeling.' Judging by the bewildered and frustrated look on her face, neither can his wife.