Through the lens: Southeast Asia's 2018 World Cup fans

Karim Raslan -- Ceritalah ASEAN

Posted at Jul 10 2018 07:20 PM

A Ceritalah ASEAN World Cup visual story

Vietnamese football fans concentrating on the Japan-Poland match by a roadside stall in Hanoi on 30 June 2018.

For Southeast Asians, football is KING. According to a National Geographic study, the sport is the most popular in 8 out of 11 of the region’s countries (the three exceptions being Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines). 

A crowd in Jakarta’s Kemang district watching the France – Argentina match at night, anticipating a goal from the Argentinian team on 30 June 2018.

Indeed, almost as many Southeast Asians (around 245 million) watched the 2014 World Cup as in Central and North America combined.

A crowd watches the Argentina-France match in Hanoi’s Mai Dinh Ward district on 30 June 2018. For eight out of eleven countries in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Brunei and Timor-Leste) football is the most popular sport.

Of course – and sadly – there aren’t any regional teams competing in the 2018 World Cup, which means that over 630 million potential fans don’t have someone to back. But that hasn’t dampened our collective obsession. And as we approach the semi-finals, the global attention is only going to increase. 

Not everyone goes out to watch a live stream of the World Cup matches. In Davao, Philippines, where other sports like boxing and basketball are more popular, outdoor football watching crowds are a rare sight.

Ceritalah Asean made a quick sweep from Hanoi to Jakarta to get a sense of the football fever and who the fans are supporting.

HR manager Duong Ha (left) supports Russia while her friend Vietnam National University student Do Trang (right) is drawn to Germany’s “handsome” players.

In Hanoi’s My Dinh Ward, 19-year-old Do Trang, a student at the Vietnam National University, is a big fan of Germany. “I like them, because they have handsome players.” Her friend, HR manager Duong Hoa supports Russia. “They’re clearly better and more skilled,” referring to Russia’s 4-3 penalty win against Spain after the two teams tied 1-1.

Riko (left), a security guard at a department store, cheers for Mexico during a live stream in Jakarta’s Kuningan district. Mexico lost their match against Brazil 0-2 on 2 July 2018.

In Jakarta, Riko, who works as a security guard at a department store, hoped that Mexico – one of the losing Group F teams – would make it to this week’s semi-finals. “I follow Mexico, because my favourite player Javier Hernandes (nicknamed “Chicharito”) is one of their forwards.”

And who am I rooting for, you may ask?

It’s simple: I’ve never bothered with football and I never will – not even the Final will tempt me.

Government officer Nuangruthai Raikrang in Bangkok’s Talad Plu district watching the France – Uruguay match on 6 July 2018. “I hope France will win”—a dream which come true when the European giant decisively won 2-0 against its Latin American opponent.

Regarding the prospects of Southeast Asian countries qualifying for the World Cup in the near future, government officer Nuangruthai Raikrang is optimistic that her country, Thailand, can make it on the international stage. “If the government can lend more support for our football team, then I think we can qualify one day.”

29-year-old Cris Robert Penol (left, seated), unemployed, 33-year-old part time construction worker Roger Penol (standing) and 19-year-old student Arnie Romarate watching the Mexico-Brazil match on 2 July 2018 in the Philippine city of Davao. Cris is supporting Brazil while Roger and Arnie support Mexico.

29-year-old Cris Robert Penol, who is unemployed, has similar views. “Philippine athletes can play any sport, but we cannot qualify because our government does not provide good training facilities here in our country. Plus, basketball and boxing are more popular.”

Lecturer and Deputy Dean at the KPJ Healthcare University College Mithra Thuraisingam thinks that Malaysia needs a restructuring of its football association if it is to qualify for the World Cup in the future.

Lecturer and Deputy Dean at the KPJ Healthcare University College Mithra Thuraisingam thinks that her country, Malaysia, doesn’t have the potential – at least for now. “Malaysia cannot be in the world cup…because capable people should be chairing the FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) based on merit rather than their status.”

Malaysian football fans watching the France-Uruguay quarterfinal on 6 July 2018 in Bangsar.

Whether they believe that their country will one day represent Southeast Asia in the World Cup, there is no doubt that the region is and will remain, football country. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.