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by Xinhua writers Lyu Qiuping and Bai Xu
BEIJING Cheap Joel Heath Jersey , June 19 (Xinhua) -- Despite an almost hilariously bad national team of their own, Chinese football fans are wide awake these nights, watching the FIFA World Cup on the other side of the earth.
The games are mostly scheduled after midnight in Beijing, and many fans are resorting to ""sick"" leave and buying fake sick notes online.
At China's largest online shopping platform, ""sick leave note"" searches have been banned for ""legal reasons"", but searching for ""hospital registration service"" will achieve the same end, with prices from dozens of yuan to several hundred, depending on the length of the sick leave and the nature of the imaginary affliction.
Insurance companies have also brought their ingenuity to the game, as at least three fans in China have reportedly died while watching games at night. In fact, about 50 people die in China every minute, so it's no surprise if a few of them happen to be watching TV at the time.
At the online shop of Zhongan Insurance, fans can buy ""nightbird insurance"" for three yuan (48 U.S. cents), with a compensation of up to 10,000 yuan for sudden death while watching soccer games after midnight, or ""drunk insurance"", which compensates fans who suffer from alcoholism.
As of Thursday noon, the e-shop had sold 71 nightbirds and 52 drunks.
WORLD CUP MEMORIES
Although millions of people spend their sleepless nights in front of the TV, many do not call themselves ""fans"" at all. They have their own reasons for their football fever.
Bus driver Cheng Bingjiang started watching soccer in 1978, the first year of China's opening and reform, when a neighbor bought a black-and-white television. They did not even know the soccer show was called ""World Cup.""
Five or six male neighbors squeezed in a small room, and watched the games silently at night. ""We did not dare celebrate for fear of waking up our wives and children,"" he recalled, adding the quiet game felt like a reception at a fancy bar nowadays, although they could not afford beer back then.
Cheng, now 51, still watches the games, together with his son who just finished his national college entrance exam (NCEE). Cheng junior came to football through computer games, and this is the first time he has watched the real World Cup with interest.
""He is crazier about it than me,"" said Cheng senior.
Jiao Xiaoguang is busy preparing a national engineer examination, but he cannot help watching the games because they often reminded him of special years.
""The quadrennial World Cup meant either an exam year or a graduation year, which were all memorable,"" he said.
China initiated its national league in 1994, and most of the fans were born in the 1980s or after. Jiao is one of them.
In 1998, the year of the France World Cup, he graduated from junior high school and enjoyed the tournament for the first time. In 2002, ahead of the NCEE, Jiao and his classmates watched the World Cup in the classroom. That year, the Chinese soccer qualified for the finals for the one and only time. ""The whole class sighed together when we saw our star player Zhao Junzhe hit the woodwork,"" he recalled.
Four years later, Jiao was about to graduate from university. The Germany World Cup served as the final gathering of the class. ""Many of us were not fans at all. Some simply fell asleep after drinking beer together at restaurant,"" he said.
Years have past and the 31-year-old Jiao is father to a six-year-old boy. The World Cup is now a precious opportunity to recall the past. ""Old friends contact each other and discuss the game details online,"" he said.
In a triumph of realism over aspiration, Cheng Bingjiang thinks it quite unlikely that the Chinese soccer team be back at the World Cup any time soon. Cheng, who played soccer in the street when he was young, did not allow his son to do the same, as cars were everywhere and nowhere was safe.
""New golf courses have appeared all round Beijing and nearby, but few soccer fields are built for kids,"" he sighed.
(Ai Fumei, Li Zheng, Peng Zhuo and Bai Lin contributed to the story)
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