Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup fever grips Mongolia

By James Watkins

A little over 16,000 km away from Ulaanbaatar, a sports tournament has just begun. But this is no ordinary sports tournament; this is the single biggest sporting event in the world, expected to draw one of the largest global television audiences in history, featuring the biggest names in world sport, and costing the host city over 11 billion USD.

The opening of the FIFA World Cup has not gone unnoticed in Mongolia. Upwards of a hundred people attended an event outside the State Department Store to celebrate the opening match between hosts country Brazil and Group A rival Croatia, featuring live music and beer stands. And, despite the lack of Mongolian representation, as well as the unfavorable hours of live broadcasts (most matches kick off at 12, 3 or 6 a.m. by Ulaanbaatar time to cater to the predominantly European viewing audience), large numbers have filled local bars, pubs, and impromptu outdoor screening areas to watch matches live.

As the tournament progresses, there is no doubt going to be growing interest and excitement across the city, but even at this early stage, dozens of local fans braved yesterday morning’s poor weather to watch the 6:00 a.m. England vs Italy fixture at one venue alone—a specially erected tent just south of Gurvan Gal Department Store. Over the next month before the June 13 final, we are sure to see almost every alcohol-serving establishment in the city turn any available walls into makeshift projector screens to satisfy the growing numbers of eager fans needing their daily dose of football—and beer.

Many Mongolians, especially young men, are following World Cup coverage on ETV, which is broadcasting all matches live as well as repeats and highlights during the day. Many tune in simply to watch global stars such as Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Brazil’s Neymar. However, there are also many devoted Mongolian fans with adopted allegiance for various teams across the world, with Spain, Brazil, Germany, and England proving especially popular.

In addition, according to Ganbat Demchigdorj, General Secretary of the Mongolian Football Federation, Russia will also be a fan’s favorite as Mongolia’s only neighbor to be playing in the tournament, and “obviously we will [also] support other Asian countries such as Japan and Korea.”
The global nature of the tournament is surely its key attraction. “To see the best 32 teams from every [nation] in the world, they are excited to see it. This is the magic of football.”

As of press time, eight matches have concluded from Groups A, B, C and D. The results are:

Group A:
Brazil 3-1 Croatia
Mexico 1-0 Cameroon
Group B:
Spain 1-5 Netherlands
Chile 3-1 Australia
Group C:
Colombia 3-0 Greece
Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan
Group D:
Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica
England 1-2 Italy

Follow the World Cup with the UB Post. Keep up-to-date with the latest scores, upcoming fixtures, and which local venues are screening matches. Let us know how and where you are watching the World Cup—Tweet us at @ubpost to share your story!

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