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UPDATED: June 30, 2014 NO. 27 JULY 3, 2014
Ball Out of Play
A nation of football lovers, China lacks a team strong enough to reach the FIFA World Cup
By Bai Shi

OUT AGAIN: China's national football team loses a key match against Iraq 0 to 1 on October 11, 2011, disqualifying them from entering the next round of the Asian regional qualifying stage of the 2014 World Cup (XINHUA)

The 2014 FIFA World Cup re-ignited the passion of Chinese football fans of all ages when it kicked off in Brazil on June 13, despite China's national football team not being among the 32 taking part in the final round. Team China was knocked out during the regional qualifying stage for Asia back in 2011.

For most Chinese fans, it is simply too expensive to travel to Brazil and watch the World Cup matches live from the stands. Despite the 11-hour time difference, many still choose to view the games live on TV; in Beijing, that means watching games at midnight and later. Nevertheless, time difference has never held back for those enthusiastic Chinese football fans who prefer to cheer along with the fans in real-time.

There will be 64 matches in total during the month-long World Cup. To ensure they can watch the electrifying, impassioned bouts at midnight and beyond, many viewers have sought out various excuses to delay work the next day. Using vacation time, asking doctors for sick-leave notes, and even buying falsified doctor's notes online are some of the more extreme methods. Perhaps even more avidly, one die-hard football aficionado quit his well-paying job to enjoy the World Cup without being disturbed by work, Xin'an Evening News, a local media based in east China's Anhui Province, reported recently.

Millions tuned in

Li Yao, 32, a farm manager in Beijing, is one such impassioned World Cup viewer. Li has adjusted his work and rest schedules to Rio time in order to more conveniently watch the grand sporting event.

"My job is flexible compared to white-collar workers and I have made a schedule for the work in advance," Li told Beijing Review.

"During the tournament stage, there are three or four matches that take place from midnight to dawn every day in Beijing time. I watch two of them every night, take a nap in between and have a long lie in every morning, and then work in the afternoons and evenings," Li said. As a single man, he jokes that he is free from the earful of complaints from a wife.

Li said he has loved football since his childhood. He was a member of school team and often took part in the middle school football league in Beijing. The sport has become a part of his life.

Due to the absence of China's national team this year, Chinese fans are looking beyond nationality, cheering on other World Cup football teams like Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Germany and England. All have won over numerous supporters.

Li is a big fan of Italy. He recalled one evening, back in 2006, when he shocked his parents out of their slumber after cheering excitedly to celebrate Italy's World Cup win. It is more enjoyable to watch the games live with other fans around the world, Li said.

"My work and sleep schedules have been turned upside down. I feel exhausted after watching these midnight games. I'll take a good rest after the games are over and readjust to Beijing time," Li said.

Like the country's football fans, the media is also captivated by the World Cup. Hundreds of Chinese reporters have been sent to Brazil to cover the event, Xinhua News Agency reported.

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