No other sporting event stirs up such a surge of
emotion all around the globe as the World Cup.
It's not a simple matter of supporting one's
home-country team all sorts of subplots arise,
and some of the most zealous fans can be found in
countries with no team of their own in the field.
example, has never played a World Cup match.
Yet international soccer has a huge
following in the planet's second-most
populous country, and by some measures
including prominence on cable TV the
tournament overshadowed this weekend's Asia
Cup cricket match with archrival Pakistan.
In India's southern state of Kerala, fans
have been staying up late to watch World Cup
telecasts, and two motorized rickshaw
drivers have painted their vehicles in the
colors of their favorite teams, Brazil and
Argentina, to attract like-minded customers.
"I think Brazil has more supporters than
Argentina, at least in Kerala," said a
gleeful Mohammed Ali, whose rickshaw is now yellow
with green highlights. He's threatened to set his
vehicle on fire if the Brazilians fail to win
their sixth title.
Brazil and Argentina also are the teams of
choice in neighboring, impoverished Bangladesh,
with flags of the two South American nations
flying from rooftops and treetops. When a power
outage interrupted a telecast of the
Argentina-Nigeria match in the capital city of
Dhaka, angry fans by the hundreds smashed
One of Dhaka's top universities closed
indefinitely Sunday after students clashed over
whether to cancel classes to watch the World Cup.
Fervent soccer fans demanded an early summer
vacation so they could watch more matches. At
least five injuries were reported when they
clashed with other students who wanted classes to
In Haiti, Argentina is an afterthought.
Brazilians who visit the earthquake-wracked
country say Haitians may be more passionate about
the Selecao than the South Americans themselves.
Brazilian flags fly from cars overheating in
Port-au-Prince's oppressive traffic; people who
can barely afford shoes somehow break out new
yellow jerseys of their favorite players. Whenever
Brazil is on TV, even before the World Cup,
activity slows and goals are greeted with shouts,
screams and celebratory gunfire.
It's a decades-old love affair rooted in a
passion for soccer and the Brazilian style of
play, and it carries over off the field. Brazilian
soldiers lead a 14,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping
force that's been in place since 2004, and Brazil
has been a generous contributor to a post-quake
In Serbia, which has a team in the World Cup,
the United States is getting unexpected support
from some fans. Not because the Serbs have
overcome their animosity toward Americans stemming
from the 1999 NATO bombing of their country, but
because they want to play the U.S. in the
elimination round of the tournament.
When the U.S. tied the score at 2-2 against
Slovenia on Friday night, there was a loud cheer
from Serbs watching in Belgrade cafes.
"We would rather play the Americans than
the Slovenes in the next round," said Marko
Jovanovic. "It would be a sweet revenge for
what the Americans did to us in the bombing."
Next door in Croatia, the question of who to
cheer for is complicated. The soccer-crazy
country's own team failed to make the World Cup,
while teams from neighboring Serbia and Slovenia
did qualify resulting in a jealously-tinged
On one hand, there's long history on conflict
with the Serbs and a recent history of resentment
toward Slovenia. On the other, there's a vestige
of regional solidarity with neighbors that, like
Croatia, used to be part of Yugoslavia.
Vesna Mijic of Zagreb compared it to the annual
Eurovision song contest which has an entry
from each European nation.
"You vote for your neighbors because
nobody else will," Mijic said.
The World Cup is a conundrum in China, the
world's most populous nation. Millions of
soccer-crazy fans are following live telecasts,
but there's a bit of detachment because of the
lowly status of the Chinese national team.
China has only played in one World Cup in
2002, when it crashed out without scoring a goal.
Since then, it hasn't come close to qualifying,
while three of its neighbors North Korea,
South Korea and Japan made the field this year
and are drawing at least lukewarm support from
"As an Asian, I am so happy to see our
countries doing better and better on the world
stage," Wang Wen, president of the Beijing
Soccer Fans Association, told the People's Daily.
"Obviously, China has been left far behind
... I'm afraid we won't be able to cheer for our
own team at the World Cup in the near
Across Africa, which has six teams in the World
Cup, there's widespread solidarity due in part
to pride that the continent is hosting the
tournament for the first time.
In Uganda, though, there's been an unexpected
hitch some parents have prevented their
children from watching matches on TV when Cameroon
competes because the name of one of its players,
Emana, is a sexually explicit obscenity in Luganda,
one of Uganda's main languages.
"I would rather miss watching the match
than being embarrassed before my children,"
said 57-year-old Aziz Kato.
In South Africa itself, where fans are steeling
themselves for their beloved team's ouster, it was
Soccer Sunday at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
"The hype around Bafana Bafana set us up
for disappointment," said the Rev. Victor
Phalana, urging his parishioners to relax and
savor the excitement of being World Cup hosts.
"We must enjoy it while it lasts."
Contributing to this report were Associated
Press writers Nirmala George in New Delhi; Julhas
Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh; Godfrey Olukya in
Kampala, Uganda; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade,
Serbia; Jonathan M. Katz in Port-au-Prince, Haiti;
Christopher Bodeen in Beijing; Snjezana Vukic in