Euro fever: Fans, businesses gear up for summer windfall

KATHMANDU. “I’ll put on the England shirt,” says Sushil Shakya, a junior account officer at Nepal Telecom. “I hope Liecester’s Jamie Vardy carries his scoring form to lead England to their maiden Euro title,” adds Shakya, a sworn fan of the English Premier League side Manchester United.

Vardy scored 24 goals, one behind league’s top scorer Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur, to fire Liecester to their maiden league title in the 2015-16 season.

The 38-year-old Om Bahal native, found a common ground with friends—supporters of rival EPL sides—in celebrating Liecester’s stunning success after Red Devils’ campaign fizzled out mid-way through the season.
He plans to invite his friends to watch the Euro games on a 55-inch LED television he bought this April. “It will be a great opportunity to socialise and meet up with old friends.”

As international sports channels are readily available, increasing number of Nepalis are more familiar about Manchester United and Real Madrid than their national team, a local football administrator conceded recently. This craze will only reach higher in Kathmandu when Euro 2016—the European Championships as it is formally called—kicks off in France on Friday night.

One only has to visit sports apparel stores to witness football fever. With the competition expanded from 16 to 24 teams this time around, fans are spoilt for choice on team shirts.

Others are busy with the guessing games. Who will be the possible winners? Will France flourish encore in front of the home crowd after 1984? Will the remaining members of Spain’s “golden generation” put behind their bleak World Cup in Brazil for a record third straight European crown? Or will Germany and Italy reproduce their big-tournament temperament?

While the best talents from Europe are vying for the Henry Delauney trophy in faraway France, the event is widely considered as a perfect occasion for a substantial cash windfall. Everyone—from sellers of sports merchandise to TV sets, beer companies to restaurateurs—is trying everything in their power to score big.

Already, Euro 2016 has been a bonanza for DishHome, the leading operator for digital broadcasting of television channels in the country, which has recorded a 200 percent jump in subscription compared to the average sales figures of the February-April period. “We have registered around 16,000 new customers in the past 10 days. Many of them have subscribed to our sports package,” says Kalyan Adhikari, marketing chief at DishHome.

All 51 matches will be telecast live by Sony sports channels network, the holder of the broadcasting rights for the Indian subcontinent.

The championships will be watched by an estimated cumulative TV audience of over 8 billion—the third highest after the football World Cup and the Olympic Games. With an estimated 300 million supporters of European football—EPL, La Liga and Serie A—Ronaldo, Messi, Paul Pogba are all household names in South Asia.

In Nepal, there is a growing trend of fans going to restaurants and bars during the matches, which clearly serves dual purpose for the viewers: catching up with old friends and enjoying matches. Carlsberg Breweries, one of the official sponsors of the month-long event, is working overtime to ensure that Nepali football fans have as much fun over here and that its money is well spent.

“We’ve installed around 200 dedicated outlets where people can relax and watch the games live,” says Salina Sharma, senior brand development executive of Gorkha Brewery, the local brewer of the Danish beverage.
“There will be a host of fun activities to entertain the fans during the matches,” she adds.

Having endured the five-month blockade, restaurateurs are full of hope that Euro 2016 will help pick up the slack. Sambhavit Shrestha, who manages Station BBQ at Pulchowk, is busy preparing for the big event.

BBQ was a popular hangout for local and foreign football fans during the World Cup held in Brazil two years ago.
“We have been showing European club football matches live during weekends without troubles since 2010,” says Shrestha, recalling Real Madrid’s record 11th Champions League triumph in the final against city rivals Atletico last month.

The Kathmandu Post, 10 Jun 2016, 11.00

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