Shanghai's nightlife comes alive with World Cup frenzy
Shanghai's nightlife has come alive once again with bars and eateries packed with soccer fans watching the ongoing 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Laughter, noise and yelling, the joy of football has revived people's pent-up sports enthusiasm.
At midnight on Monday, several pubs at Found158 and on Maoming Rd N. in downtown Jing'an District welcomed a number of soccer fans. Strict COVID-19 prevention and control measures such as health QR code and nucleic acid test result checks were in place.
Some drank and chatted cheerfully, while most were glued to the football matches on television.
Two spirited young Englishmen, wearing hoodies with England's iconic badge of the Three Lion Regiment, were engrossed in the exciting game between England and Iran. After a period of silence, they suddenly jumped up excitedly and burst into loud cheers intermittently as England kept knocking in the goals – six of them in total. England won 6-2.
Ben Smith, from London, said he felt greatly delighted to gather with his native friends and root for his home team with beers and cheers.
"There are fewer people than I expected, but still, it is a good vibe here," he said. "Everyone is friendly and it's quite a nice place to watch a good game with like-minded football fans."
Matches kicking off at 9pm is a golden time for watching at bars, while most England games being at 3am may bring challenges to people like him with work the next day, according to Smith, a marketing executive who has been in Shanghai for three years.
"But that will not deter me from gathering with friends to drink our fill at night and cheer on our team," he added. " As the games get more important in the knockout stage, we will look for some bars with more England fans."
Sardor Davletov from Russia, spent the Monday night with his friend at a bar in Found158.
"I am a soccer fan, and Spain, France and Argentina are my favorite teams," he said. "I like the place and it is very amazing, with very interesting soccer watching experience."
The global football extravaganza has fueled night-time consumption and enriched nightlife in the city, boosting the recovery of Shanghai's night tourism and consumption market.
A bustling scene can be observed at Goose Island Brewhouse in Jing'an during the World Cup when night falls. The customers include both Chinese and expats.
Goose Island Brewhouse has increased screens and new equipments to ensure stable broadcast signal and is providing a three-hour carouse package at deep discounts during the World Cup.
"We want to create a good environment for soccer game watchers because atmosphere is their pursuit," said Fred Zhou, trade retail director of Budweiser APAC.
"We hope guests will stay longer and have a drink here, watching games, after dinner."
A booming scene was seen during the opening game of the World Cup – between Qatar and Ecuador, which the host lost 0-2.
"All tables on the first floor were fully occupied, and some even stood watching the game," said Zhou.
Moreover, the whole venue of Goose Island Brewhouse was already reserved for the nights of the semifinal and final two weeks prior to the event kicking off.
"We felt the big interest and enthusiasm of our guests based on the reservations," Zhou noted. "We did not expect the reservations to start so early, and we have high expectations for business during the World Cup, which will certainly spur the night-time economy."
"In fact, our business since July and August has surpassed last year's and we have many local guests," he added.
At present, Goose Island Brewhouse is open until 1am or only opens overnight when there are popular matches at 3am during the group stage, but it will be open for all knockout round matches.
"We have witnessed a significant increase in reservations, thanks to the World Cup," said Chen Kaiqiang, director of the Dapu Road outlet of China's hotpot chain restaurant Haidilao in Huangpu District, where World Cup elements can be found everywhere. It is open overnight during the World Cup.
Chen observed that reservations have grown about 30 percent from normal since the World Cup started and all private dining compartments with digital screens have been almost fully reserved during the World Cup period.
"Many guests reserved dining rooms several days in advance due to their private environment," he added. "Reservations, which were a thing of the past, have returned."
"Because we have created exclusive areas for soccer fans to watch matches, many guests were worried there would be no seat available in the areas," he explained. "Most late-night guests are young males with friends."
Haidilao has stirred up a soccer blizzard at nearly 900 outlets with soccer-themed decorations, new hotpot packages and fresh beer to enrich dining experiences.
Mouth-watering bullfrog pot, braised dishes, fresh beer and cocktail are on the menu launched for the soccer gala.
"Fresh beer and braised dishes are among the most popular, and our dine-out delivery orders have also increased over 10 percent after 8pm since the World Cup started," Chen said.
"Compared with the UEFA Euro 2020, we have stepped up efforts for the decoration and recipe development this time, and we hold high hopes for booming business during the World Cup."
The visual feast for sports fans has led to a boom in hotel bookings as well, with rooms featuring big screens and sports themes favored, travel operators said.
Shanghai-based online travel operator Trip.com said bookings of hotel packages tagged "World Cup" soared nearly 40 percent day by day, with males dominating.
More than 50 percent of parent-children rooms on the platform for Sunday night, when the World Cup started, were booked by post-80s male generation, while post-90s male generation preferred rooms with big screens. Some also spent the night with their girlfriends.
Searches related to the World Cup have soared in the past week, according to Mafengwo, a Chinese travel services and social networking website.
Searches regarding tours tagged "Qatar World Cup" surged 1,133 percent with those bearing tags of "Qatar visa" and "Qatar accommodation" growing over 600 percent from normal, according to Mafengwo.
The Qatar National Museum, Souq Waqif, and the Corniche are the most searched tourist attractions in Qatar among Chinese travelers, it said.
Digital retailer Meituan said the number of orders for dine-in packages at World Cup-themed restaurants in China has grown 80 percent with Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou witnessing the largest number of relevant orders.
Hotpot, barbecue, western-style restaurants and bars are most favored options during the World Cup, it said.
Beer and fried chicken have replaced crayfish as the most popular food among fans with sales of relevant packages soaring over 357 percent on the first three days of the World Cup.
Soccer fan culture
The atmosphere at ARK, a comprehensive sports and entertainment venue in Changning District, was nothing but hot on Tuesday night due to the game between Argentina and Saudi Arabia.
A soccer fan activity organized by Blaugrana China, the soccer fan club of Spanish giant Barcelona, was held here. Elements of Argentina and Barcelona icon Lionel Messi can be found everywhere. Wearing the Argentina colors, fans yelled every time he kicked the ball.
It was Argentina's first match of the 2022 World Cup, and it lost to rank outsider Saudi Arabia 1-2.
"We mainly organize such watching activities when there are matches of Argentina or Spain, and the applications for tonight's match were huge," said Wu Ping, director of Blaugrana China.
Established in 2007, Blaugrana China aims to promote the sports culture of Barcelona and sports cultural exchanges between China and Spain. It has become one of the most influential soccer fan organizations in China over the 15 years of its development.
"Shanghai has a good soccer fan culture as an international metropolis," said Wu. "The city has many soccer fan organizations of other teams with loyal fans and we host a variety of activities like watching events and friendly matches with them often."
Sports bars with good atmosphere are favored for watching such big events, according to Wu.
"We pay most attention to Messi and we hope he will fuifill his dream as this is his last World Cup."
Shangbin Life Plaza in Hongkou District is another base of supporters for the Argentinian team. In the three-story stepped plaza, blue and white was the main tone on Tuesday night.
The Argentina Fans Club began preparation for the big gathering to watch Argentina's World Cup games last year, according to Wu Xiaoman, president of the club.
"From site selection and design planning to layout arrangement, coordinating with relevant authorities and inviting guests, it took us more than half a year, and it was completed just a day before Argentina's first game."
As the game kicked off, the plaza erupted in applause, followed by a chorus of "Argentina" reverberating throughout. Though the team lost the first game, and fans felt upset and some even cried, they comforted each other amid strong belief that it will rebound in the next matches.
The Argentina Fans Club is for national team fans, according to Wu, who believes it is the cohesion and strong connection to this team and this country that make them last and flourish.
"Unlike club teams that might play every week, national teams are only available for fans to watch in big tournaments, like the Copa America or the World Cup, where there are only seven games in two or four years," said Wu, who has led this club for 15 years.
"We have integrated Argentine culture such as Mate and Tango into our lives through football," he noted.