Why China is looking forward to the World Cup in Russia

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Chinese football fans are excited about the 2018 World Cup. Photo: Weibo/Wikimedia Commons/Krassotkin, Agência Brasil

Along with hosts Russia, people in China are very excited about the World Cup and their country’s involvement in the world’s biggest sporting event, which starts on Thursday.

It is believed communist China will celebrate the month-long international soccer tournament in a bigger way than it did in 2002, according to reports in the local media.

More than 40,000 tickets have been sold to Chinese fans for the 2018 Fifa World Cup, slightly lower than the estimated 40,000 to 50,000 tickets in 2002 when China made its one and only appearance in the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

The number of Chinese holding tickets is higher than the British, who have 32,362 so far, but the number of mainland fans are ranked ninth behind the United States (88,825) and Brazil (72,512) with the highest numbers coming from hosts Russia, with 872,000.

While most expect Chinese football fans to be men, the data shows otherwise. About 57% of the tickets were sold to Chinese women, reflecting the charisma of some of the top and also good looking players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

This summer, more than 100,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit Russia, according to Ctrip, thanks to free visas, a free shopping tax and close proximity to Russia – usually about an eight-hour flight.

In anticipation of the flood of Chinese tourists, more than 100,000 lobsters were shipped by China Russia Express to Moscow. Domestic consumption related to the World Cup has also increased. Last month, Alibaba Group’s Taobao said 100,000 tonnes of beer were on reserve, or about 10 times more than ordered during the Brazil World Cup.

Likewise, advertising by Chinese enterprises during the World Cup totaled US$835 million, more than one-third of the total sponsorship this year, according to Zenith Group. That compares with US$64 million by host Russia.

That is also reflected in the 15 global sponsors, where one-third comes from Chinese enterprises. They include property conglomerate Wanda Group, handset maker Vivo and three Hong Kong-listed companies: milk producer Mengniu, white goods producer Hisense and electric motorcycle manufacturer Yadea.

They stand alongside global brands such as Coca-cola, McDonald’s and Adidas in the battle for the attention of billions of football watchers.

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