Although the Chinese national football team’s last World Cup appearance amounted to three losses during the Group Stage of 2002, the World Cup remains a popular event for Chinese fans that’s mingled with jokes, idol culture, beer and kabobs.
Bandwagon fans might not know much about the top European leagues, but no one can stop them from cheering for their favorite national teams. Weibo has offered a flood of fresh stories from the football pitch every morning. Fan group leaders post new cheer slogans, triggering rounds of cult-like interest and chatter.
The online response can be more fun than the games themselves.
The marketing campaigns began long before the opening of the 2018 Russia World Cup.
Mengniu Dairy ran advertisement spots starring Argentine footballer Lionel Messi in every CCTV5 break, and OPPO ran ads for its Find X with Brazilian star Neymar.
The script of Mengniu’s commercial was pretty inspiring:
I am Lionel Messi.
I was looked down upon, faced with massive pressure and merciless enemies
I’ve felt depressed and lost shots. I’ve suffered bitterness and pain.
I even know what earth and dirt taste like. Just like right now.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve fallen to the ground.
But I can still feel my power inside. The power that raises me up, and keeps me marching forward.
I’m not born strong. I just want to be stronger.
The commercial recounted the ups and downs of Messi’s football career and served as a teaser for Argentina’s performance in the three Group Stage games.
In Argentina’s match against Iceland, Messi missed a penalty kick. In the second game his team lost three goals to Croatia. But the knight in white and blue stripes managed to lead his team out of the group stage in the third game.
One scene in the commercial showed Messi lying on the pitch, looking lost and beaten up, and was dubbed by Chinese netizens as “Messi, panicked as hell.” The image was edited to show different footballers with other captions, eventually going viral.
The OPPO Find X commercial starring Neymar and American supermodel Taylor Hill was more of a Sci-Fi blockbuster style. Unlike other phone commercials featuring domestic stars like Kris Wu, the Find X commercial had cool visual effects and a nerve-wracking plot. It told the story of how Neymar went on an adventure with the Martian League and looked for “the lost treasure” with a mysterious beauty.
The temperament of the commercial fit the flagship phone, which launched last month at the Louvre in Paris. Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jonathan Ive referred to as “praiseworthy.”
The world is not what you see. Find more: find X.
Cursed List of Winners
After the World Cup entered the Knockout Stage, a curse befell the football powerhouses of Germany, Argentina and Spain as they were all kicked out of the game. Some netizens joked about it in the tone of the World Cup trophy. “I’m the golden World Cup trophy. Right now, I’m panicked as hell. I’ve no idea which not-so-kickass team will finally take me home,” one wrote.
The Powerhouse List on Weibo, a masterpiece of football fandom, turned into a list of top-ranked teams who would be eliminated first.
Before the eighth-final between Brazil and Mexico, fans of Brazil in China were worried bad luck might befall Brazil as it was next on the list. Their 2-0 victory broke the curse.
It was also amusing to see England fans voting for their enemy Croatia in hopes of driving it up the cursed list before the semi-finals. The end result was a bit disappointing.
Gambling for Money or Fun?
The unprecedented passion of Chinese football fans for the 2018 World Cup may have something to do with the Internet football lottery. Many lottery buyers were driven by a desire to win, not a passion for football.
During the World Cup, China’s investment gamblers cared more about match odds than turbulent stocks.
A friend of mine won 1,500 yuan on a 10 yuan bet when he accidentally guessed the 5-2 victory of Brussels against Tunisia. He even proposed that, in order to increase the odds, we could work together in a group, betting possible results and splitting the lottery prize if anyone won.
The shocking defeats and unexpected winners during the Russia World Cup brought tons of dollars into the pockets of lottery companies. Most had analysts working to calculate the odds of each team. The analysts are worth the millions of yuan the companies pay, and casual fans can never hope to outsmart them.
What would it be like to see our own national team at the Knockout Stage of the World Cup? Chinese football fans have never had the chance to experience that. But as long as we have bars with huge TVs, football apps and Weibo, the world cup is ours!
Feature Image Source: sports gambling podcast.