The date was July 11, 2010. The venue was the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. As Spain’s Andres Iniesta smashed the ball past the Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg deep into extra time, fans all over the world went delirious. The level of excitement was the same for Spanish fans in India – only that it was almost 2 am as the sounds of vuvuzelas filled our homes and venues.
This June, the venues, players and vuvuzelas (they will be replaced by the less cacophonic caxirola) are different. And, sadly, the timings will be more difficult for Indian viewers. Remember that the World Cup is being held in Brazil this year – it means a time difference of about eight-and-a-half hours. The first match of the 2014 World Cup (Brazil vs Croatia) kicks off at 5 pm local time in Sao Paulo. That translates to 1:30 am in India. If that wasn’t enough, one Group C match between Ivory Coast and Japan will oddly start at 6:30 am – you can wake up to World Cup action!
Most group matches have four scheduled starts: 9:30 pm, 12:30 am, 1:30 am and 3:30 am (Indian Standard Time). Those starting at 9:30 pm and 12:30 am seem the best bet for regular Indian viewers and are in line with many of the matches that Indians are used to watching in the various European leagues, including the UEFA Champions League.
The round-of-16 matches kick off at 9:30 pm and 1:30 am, while the semi-finals start at 1:30 am. The biggest match of them all, the final, begins at 12:30 am.
Matches played between the Indian prime time of 8 and 11 at night will not irk the fans here. But Indian viewers will have to think long about matches that will keep them up till the wee hours. How will they cope with it?
Sunil Chhetri, captain of the Indian football team, believes fans will have to become “nocturnal” for the duration of the World Cup. “Thankfully, for us footballers, it’s the off season. Yet, we will have to plan and manage our training and rest,” he says. “It is going to be really difficult for working people. Imagine watching a match at 3:30 in the morning when you have to be at work by 8 or 9 am. People who have a disciplined lifestyle with regard to the time they get up or go to bed will certainly have difficulties. They will have to alter their plans.”
Chhetri also thinks there are numerous Indian fans who will stay up to watch live action despite the odd hours. “Fans in India are no less passionate than those in Europe,” says the footballer who spent a season with Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. “I am sure people will stay up and catch the action live. The genuine fans will find a way to catch all the action. They might, however, narrow down their choice of matches to sit up for.”
The timings of the World Cup in South Africa 2010 were more amenable for Indian viewers. The group matches kicked off at 5 pm, 7:30 pm and midnight (IST). The referee blew the whistle for the semi-finals and final matches at midnight. According to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Television Audience Report (produced for FIFA TV by KantarSport), the final in Johannesburg had an in-home total average audience of 5,956,712 for India. Whether the final in Rio De Janeiro this year will attract so many eyeballs from India remains to be seen.
You can hide your alarm clocks because chances are that the sound of the caxirolas in Brazil will wake you up. But one thing is for sure, you will have to sacrifice some sleep to follow “the beautiful game”.
|10 MATCHES YOU MUST SIT UP FOR|