World Cup briefs from Asia

In China, an online survey revealed that more than 80 percent of Chinese women planed to watch at least some of the World Cup matches, Turkish Daily News reported. "Surprisingly there is a considerable share of the female audience who are open to watching the game," said Rene Bos of AC Nielsen. "In fact, only 15 percent of females have indicated no interest in the game." Despite China's failure to qualify for the finals, the survey revealed that 30 percent of the women were "very much interested" in watching matches. Two-thirds of male respondents expressed the same level of interest with 65 percent intending to watch "as much as possible" of the finals.

The Korea Tourism Organization created an "outdoor cheering" tour program to attract tourists from Malaysia, Canada and the United States. The package turned out successful, with about 2,500 fans visiting Korea during the 2006 World Cup finals. According to The Korea Times, some 110 of 750 Malaysians who purchased the two-day or three-day package programs cheered the Korean team during its first telecast game. The previous day they practiced Korean football cheering songs and dances and took part in cheering at Sangam World Cup Stadium, Seoul Plaza and other places in small groups.

South Korea's Lee Young-Pyo quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald: "We have 12 players in the squad who are Christians and that gives us added strength. In 2002 there were six, now there are 12. That is a very good thing for us. I believe Jesus will give me a good result at this World Cup."

Mohammad Yazid of The Jakarta Post: "Soccer is very popular in Indonesia even though the country has never sent a team to the World Cup. Millions of Indonesians, the majority of them Muslims, idolize international soccer stars, even though most of the players are Christians. Have you ever heard of Indonesian soccer fans deciding not to watch the major European leagues just because the players often make the sign of the cross before entering the field or after scoring a goal? ... Let us focus our attention on soccer as a "religion". Without sloganeering or campaigning, this international soccer championship has taught us that soccer is a peaceful religion. Silently it guides soccer fans to realize that the broad green field with goalposts on each end is a home we can all share ... As a nation that calls itself religious, what then can we learn from the universal values of soccer as a "religion?" Many of us ... tend to practice our religion very literally and refuse to hear other "truths". Perhaps this is reflected in our failure to develop soccer here."

Thailand’s Buddhist monks must swear off many earthly pleasures, but the government has given them the green light to enjoy World Cup football, a religious affairs official told AFP. Thai monks will be allowed to watch the matches because exposure to worldly affairs including football is beneficial for their religious education, said Preecha Gunteeya, director of Thailand’s Religious Affairs Department. But he added: “The must be clam and quiet, and there must be no gambling.” Officials say punters are expected to bet almost $1 billion, 23 percent more than at the last cup four years ago.

In neighbouring Cambodia, AFP added, the chief Buddhist monk in the capital Phnom Penh warned that monks found watching the World Cup "must be punished and kicked out from their pagodas".

Cambodia's prime minister has urged football fans to stop betting their money and belongings on World Cup matches. "If you are betting on soccer matches, just bet verbally," Hun Sen said, as quoted by The Star (Malaysia). "Just watch it, but don't sell your cows, motorcycles, cars, houses or land for bets on soccer."

Thailand police are searching for a gunman who shot and killed two football fans after complaining they were cheering too loud while watching the World Cup on television. The two men, both Thais, cheered Italy's first goal against Ghana at a restaurant at Pattaya beach resort. A man seated nearby asked them to quiet down, prompting a heated argument during which the man pulled out a handgun and shot the fans at point-blank range, Police Col. Somnuek Chanket confirmed. "Police know the identity of the gunman, who fled after the shooting, Somnuek said. Thailand has never competed in the World Cup," Reuters reported.