The world’s most-watched sporting event starts next week, with businesses around the city competing to offer the best viewing experience for footie fans
WE are just a week away from the global sensation that is the World Cup. After 853 qualifying games featuring 2,344 goals, and with 268 countries denied a place in the coveted finals in South Africa, just 32 nations remain in the fray. Could there be a more engrossing spectacle?
“Around half the planet watched the 2006 World Cup Final,” writes David Goldblatt in his bestselling book The Ball is Round. “Three billion humans have never done anything simultaneously before.”
Germany showcased its World Cup four years ago as a “Time to make friends”. This time around, South Africa’s slogan is “Ke Nako – Celebrate Africa’s Humanity”, with the world ready to embrace the Rainbow Nation with open arms.
As football writer Brian Glanville puts it: There is no more “people-friendly” game. And the public needs its fill of World Cup action.
Only six cities – Berlin, Mexico City, Paris, Rio De Janeiro, Rome and Sydney – have been granted official permission from FIFA to host International Fan Fests, outdoor arenas that allow spectators to watch the games on huge screens in their thousands. Nine South African cities that host the World Cup matches will also have Fan Fests.
Local telecoms giant Cellcard, which had procured the rights to broadcast all the World Cup matches, which will be screened on CTN and MYTV, was sadly denied the opportunity to host a Fan Fest in Phnom Penh after applying to FIFA. However, Cellcard is offering an SMS alert service to keep subscribers up to date with results and team news, and is giving away a brand new Ford Ranger in a prize draw from text-messaging participants.
Meanwhile, NagaWorld Hotel and Casino has pulled out all the stops to provide its clients with a memorable World Cup experience. The portico and the spacious lobby have been transformed with colourful signs, bunting, posters on team groupings, and a giant board showing match schedules and TV times. Beside a huge cut-out of the South African map stand displays of neatly framed official jerseys from all 32 nations, accompanied by several TV screens for live-action viewing. A whole host of World Cup information also adorns the display.
NagaWorld’s catchline says it all: Score, win, celebrate. A total of US$288,888 worth of prizes is slated to be given away during the course of the monthlong competition, and for the die-hard football fan there is a lucky draw for the chance to take home one of the official team jerseys or a replica of the Jambulani, the official eight-panelled football used in the tournament.
“It is open to all,” states NagaWorld Marketing Communications Director Philomena Chan. “Members of the public are welcome to watch each and every game live in our Darlin Darlin club.” Hotel restaurants will also screen games with a national flavour, with the Korean Grill showing Korean fixtures, while the Bistro Romano will concentrate on the progress of reigning champions Italy. Hungry customers spending $70 or more will collect a one-time US$10 betting chip and a ticket for the July 13 grand raffle draw for the World Cup memorabilia.
“We want to make NagaWorld the luckiest place in Indochina, where your chance to enjoy football goes hand in hand with your chance to strike it rich,” declared NagaWorld Creative Director of Sales and Marketing Webster Tai.
The lucky draw offer is only valid for foreign passport holders due to the anti-gambling laws for locals.
Several other establishments in the city are also upping the ante and to attract the hoards of roaming spectators. People “are here to celebrate more than anything else”, said Allan Keehan, manager at riverside sports bar Paddy Rice. “We are doing the whole place up. There is a giant screen and a few more monitors to watch the action, and we have several promotional offers going. We are tying up with Coca Cola and San Miguel, and I can assure you every purchase across the counter, no matter how big or small, will be good enough for the customer to seek some incentive or the other.”
Keehan says the bar will offer prizes to those smart enough to predict the winning team, man of the match, and first goal-scorer, and will put on special World Cup-themed meals as well as a weekly barbeque on Wednesdays. Fifty lucky punters will also be gifted vouchers worth US$25 for food and drink during the final on the night of July 11.
“We have also marked out five dates June 12, 20, 29 and July 3, 11 for fun games, with several attractive prizes,” asserted Keehan.
A few blocks south along the riverfront, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia (FCCC) also unveiled its World Cup offensive. Teaming up with several affiliated outlets including FCC Siem Reap, Visaya Spa, Chow and Cafe Fresco, customers will receive a lucky scratch card for each purchase over $5, with prizes ranging from discounts on hotel rooms to an FCC ice cream.
The 24-hour sports bar Pickled Parrot on Street 104 has assured customers that it will provide matches with English commentary after its planned coverage via South Africa satellite channel Super Sports “just vanish[ed]”. General manager Graham Burbidge noted that one or two other sports bars that relied on Super Sports will also be badly affected, but confirmed Thursday that the Pickled Parrot will have games in English via satellite. With the stress-inducing setback seemingly resolved, Burbidge promises the Pickled Parrot “will do all it can to make it an attractive World Cup to watch.”
The kickoff of the first group game is approaching fast, and World Cup frenzy is beginning to grip Phnom Penh, just like it is in most cities, towns or villages across the planet.