Fans eager to catch World Cup, never mind the hours

Brazil's Neymar will likely play a key role for his country in the World Cup.
Brazil's Neymar will likely play a key role for his country in the World Cup.PHOTO: REUTERS

Since the 1990s, communications manager Eric Ong has followed every World Cup, and this year will be no different - even if the matches are in the wee hours of the morning.

He has a plan to tackle the awkward timings when football's biggest event kicks off on June 13 here.

For midnight games, he will go to bed after they end. For those between 3am and 6am, he will go to bed by 10pm and get up just in time to tune in at pubs, a friend's house or the community club opposite his home. Then it is back home for some shut-eye, before reaching his workplace by 9am.

The 35-year-old will catch up on sleep by taking afternoon naps on the weekends. "The World Cup is like a party that everyone is invited to," he said.

In a Sunday Times online poll of 166 people, 52 per cent plan on staying up to watch the World Cup despite the inconvenient timings.

Brazil, which is hosting the tournament, is about 11 hours behind Singapore.

Ms Umarani Jayapal, a 27-year-old librarian, will be watching the matches at home. She said: "I will probably have to rely on a lot of coffee the next day at work."

Other football fans, such as strategy analyst Jeffrey Toh, however, are not willing to sacrifice sleep for the beautiful game. "I do not think I will be able to catch any of the matches live this year, when they are held at such odd hours," said the 35-year-old.

Instead, the England supporter plans to track the tournament online.

Several popular sports bars and watering holes have also decided to cut back on World Cup screenings this time.

Cafe and bar Wala Wala in Holland Village will not be showing any matches because fewer than 10 games fall within their opening hours. It is also unable to extend its liquor licence beyond 2am as it is located in a residential zone.

In 2010, when the tournament was hosted in South Africa and match telecasts started between 7.30pm and 2.30am here, almost all of pub chain Harry's outlets screened the games. This time round, only three of its 22 pubs will do so.

This is because of the timings and costly licence fees, said Mr Malcolm Chao, director of brand strategy and development at Harry's. He declined to reveal figures.

Muddy Murphy's in Somerset Road, however, is spending about $20,000, which includes manpower and licensing costs, to screen close to 50 World Cup games.

And it is hoping to see a full house of 400 to 450 people for the bigger matches.

Community clubs and McDonald's are also counting on big crowds. World Cup matches will be shown at 41 McDonald's 24-hour outlets, up from 34 outlets in 2010. The fast-food chain saw a 10 per cent increase in sales for its delivery services and outlets that screened matches during the South Africa tournament.

The People's Association has also increased the number of locations where people can catch the live telecasts. They will be screened, mainly on projected screens, at 30 community clubs this year, up from 16 locations.

About 200,000 people are expected to attend, up from more than 180,000 in 2010, although the People's Association is taking steps to ensure residents in the area will not be disturbed.

Grassroots leaders who have volunteered to manage the screenings will advise residents to be considerate and lower their noise levels.