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Asian pubs and clubs stock up on soccer fever

Buzzing with World Cup frenzy, pubs are poised for a bonanza from hordes of fans watching the games on plasma screens and enjoying drinks.

india Updated: May 30, 2006 14:00 IST

Asia is buzzing with World Cup fever and nowhere more than in pubs and clubs, which are poised for a bonanza from hordes of football fans watching the games, drinks in hand, on big screen TVs.

The excitement has not escaped staid Singapore, where nightlife venues in the tiny island-state are extending opening hours and ramping up promotions to ensure punters stay around to watch all the goals throughout the night.

"We are showing all the games at Penny Black's and Muddy Murphy's and we definitely expect quite a crowd," said Amy Williams, marketing manager for Gaelic Inns, which runs several European-style watering holes in Singapore.

"We upgraded our TVs to plasmas to get the best possible sound and best possible viewing," she added.

Popular dance club Devils Bar will up the ante by enticing fans with 'three for one' drink promotions while employing cheerleaders to keep the party going, said marketing manager Daryl Teo.

Across the region, similar preparations are under way, with matches in Asia broadcast live in the late evening or early hours of the morning.

At the last World Cup, joint hosted by South Korea and Japan, street parties erupted in both countries, with giant TV screens set up in strategic locations.

Up to one million Red Devils fans gathered to watch the home team play in the centre of Seoul and pubs and clubs were jammed.

Numbers will be down this year, but police still expect large crowds.

"Due to late night games, many people will watch at home. But we think the number of people in the streets will surge quickly if South Korea qualifies for the round of 16," said one official.

In Japan, advertising agency Dentsu estimated the World Cup will generate sales of food and beverages worth 367 million dollars, ranging from beer at bars to orders of pizza.

To ensure it is part of the action, renowned Tokyo dance club Velfarre will turn off the music and air Japan's matches instead, with staff ordered to wear orange to stand out from what is expected to a sea of blue -- Japan's national colours.

Such is the overwhelming interest in the June 9-July 9 event that sports bars across Tokyo are being forced to take reservations to keep numbers in check.

"We have received many reservations, although there is still some space for late times or the matches of less popular teams," said Toshiki Iwasawa, owner of the Vivasmap sports bar.

In football-obsessed Vietnam, the World Cup is expected to all but bring daily life to a halt, with masses of people flocking around every available TV screen, indoors and on the streets.

"During the last World Cup, you saw one TV every 10 metres in the streets on a plastic chair," said a foreign media expert.

The game is equally popular in Thailand where bar owners in Bangkok extend their business hours for late kick-off times, despite local laws that require them to close at 2 am.

Some bars are negotiating with local police; others are planning to get around the laws on their own.

"We're covering the majority of the games, but the late kick-offs will be a problem," said Ian Harris, manager of the Dubliner. "Even with the early closing hours, a lot of bars in the area will be showing them anyway."

Yok Saiophat, manager of Gulliver's Traveler, echoed this.

"We will open late," he said. "The World Cup is a big event, so maybe the police won't be serious" about enforcing the law.

Mohamad Riza, marketing director for Modesto's, a chain of restaurants with bars in Kuala Lumpur, said he expected revenue to increase by over a third during the World Cup.

"Football is not something you view alone and it's always enjoyed with friends, so yes, we will see a surge in customers," he said.