FIFA World Cup™ fever is sweeping across Asia as hundreds of millions of fans in the football-mad region count down to the start of an event that's a sure-fire winner.
From Seoul to Sydney, Beijing to Bangkok, preparations are underway for tomorrow's kick-off thousands of miles away in South Africa, heralding a month of late nights and bleary-eyed mornings for many Asian fans.
"We're expecting the hotel lounge to be full every night," said Matthew Rashid, manager of the Equatorial in Kuala Lumpur, where many bars and pubs are already decked out with colourful bunting and posters. "Everyone's excited and I'll wear a jersey to work throughout the World Cup," said the Brazil supporter.
In Korea Republic giant screens are being set up in public squares, sports stadiums and other locations around the country for people to cheer on the national team. On the other side of the border in Korea DPR, fans will be following a rare appearance by their side, who have qualified for the event for the first time in 44 years.
In Tokyo, where interest in the sport has taken off since Japan co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup, suited white-collar workers were among those taking a break from their hectic schedules for a screaming contest to warm up for kick-off. The winner was a man whose cry of "goal" lasted for 32 seconds. For those who prefer just to watch, Sony will provide 3D images of the action at about 500 sites around Japan.
Vietnam is also football-obsessed and the hugely anticipated event is expected to all but bring daily life to a halt, while in Afghanistan foreign troops will be crowding around every available television. Christoph Schmidt, a 31-year-old German-born US corporal in the 97th Military Police Battalion in Kandahar, had no doubts who he will supporting. "I am definitely for Germany. There is no debate," he said.
At Casey Station in Antarctica, Australian scientists will tune in over the radio when their team play Germany on Sunday. "They'll listen to it but they can't see it," a spokeswoman told AFP.
Stung by the national side's failure to qualify, Chinese fans can at least drown their sorrows while watching the matches at bars and parks across the nation, as well as at the South African pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai. While stock markets may see a dip in trading as investors turn their eyes to South Africa.
Yet while many businesses are happy to be infected with FIFA World Cup fever, others are bracing for a month of lost productivity. Some workers may take "sickies" after the matches or come to work intent on watching replays, said Deb Loveridge, chief executive of New Zealand human resources company Randstad.
In Sydney, massive crowds are expected at the International FIFA Fan Fest site at Darling Harbour, while other major viewing sites will be operating in Melbourne and Brisbane.