World Cup stress is getting to some Chinese fans


Residents watch a broadcast of a 2014 Brazil World Cup group match projected onto an ancient city wall in Nanjing, China, on June 14, 2014. (Reuters)

The Chinese, like most people unaffiliated with the United States, will do just about anything to watch the World Cup. Every four years, hundreds of millions tune in. But this year’s half-day time difference between China and Brazil, which is hosting the World Cup, has exiled Chinese soccer fans to the night. And their nocturnal existence has stirred strange tales of tragedy and trouble across the country.

One Chinese woman in Liaoning province jumped to her death off a nine-story building at 3:30 a.m. following a World Cup squabble with her boyfriend, according to the South China Morning Post.

Then this week a Chinese student, identified by his surname Lin, jumped off the seventh floor of a building after he had taken on $3,000 worth of gambling debt, Agence France-Presse reported.

“I heard him say, ‘Do not force me’ and ‘Give me two more days and I’ll return you the money,’” one witness said. “He talked on the phone for more than 10 minutes. I saw him hang up and stand up and then all in a sudden he just disappeared.”

While it wasn’t clear which teams Lin had backed, it was clear he had backed the wrong ones. “We heard that he borrowed quite a lot of money and the interest rate was rather high,” one classmate told reporters.

It’s not just suicide killing Chinese soccer fans. It’s also exhaustion.

So far, at least three Chinese have died after pulling a World Cup all-nighter. One man, a retired goalkeeper, suffered a heart attack after the Netherlands destroyed Spain, according to the Telegraph. Then hours later, a young man from Suzhou was reported to have been found dead before his computer as he watched the Chile-Australia match.

The next night, a 39-year-old named only as Mr. Zhou, who had not slept for two nights, “suddenly collapsed” as he surveyed Costa Rica’s surprise defeat against Uruguay. A stroke caused by “brain stem hemorrhage” killed him, the Telegraph reported. Relatives remembered him as a “keen soccer fan.”

World Cup-related issues short of death also befell several Chinese.

“Shanghai’s hospitals reported an larger number of emergency cases than usual last weekend — the first weekend of the World Cup,” reported the Shanghai Daily. “These included football fans feeling the effects of staying up late and sacrificing sleep to watch the tournament.”

“I’ve been watching games every day for the past three days, mostly the 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. games,” one 29-year-old man named Liu Yitao told the paper.

In Chongqing, a 26-year-old pregnant woman settled before her TV to watch the Germany-Portugal match. The longtime Germany fan reportedly had her fingers in some chips, which she cast aside when Germany’s Thomas Mueller scored in the 79th minute.

“Hat trick!” she screamed, according to the South China Morning Post. Then she felt a pain in her abdomen, and looked down to find blood running down her legs. She was taken to the hospital at 2 a.m., where doctors announced she had had a miscarriage.

Another 45-year-old man, who had endured several all-nighters, reportedly foamed at the mouth during a driving lesson after he was struck by a brain hemorrhage. The Morning Post says he’ll survive, but has some serious rehabilitation ahead of him.

One pair of soccer fans got off much easier. Earlier this month, they were eating spicy food and excitedly trading World Cup analysis when, according to the Morning Post, they suddenly came down with the stomach flu and went to the hospital. It wasn’t clear whether the cause was the spicy food — or the spicy soccer.

Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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