World Cup Fever Reaches Climax at Riverside

The eyes of more than 3,000 football fans were transfixed on the big screen on Phnom Penh’s riverside early Monday morning as Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro.

The match, which was won through a 113th-minute Mario Gotze strike, kicked off at 2 a.m. to roars from locals and ended as the sun began to rise over the Tonle Sap river. There were hysterical cheers for Argentinian star Lionel Messi as he emerged from the tunnel, while chants of “Allemagne,” or Germany, came from men standing atop of their motos.

Thousands of football fans watch Germany beat Argentina in the World Cup final at a public screening on Phnom Penh's Sisowath Quay on Monday morning. (Phnom Penh Municipality)
Thousands of football fans watch Germany beat Argentina in the World Cup final at a public screening on Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay on Monday morning. (Phnom Penh Municipality)

“I love Lionel Messi because he plays well. I’m 70 percent sure that Argentina will win this game,” said 22-year-old student Chhorn Daravuth. He admitted to having placed a $50 bet on the South Americans to take the prize.

“When the World Cup started I won a lot, but now I keep losing,” he added.

Crowds began building from early evening as fans were treated to a live show of music, comedy and games including a performance from comedian Miss Photo City. Thousands more turned up than the 500 to 1,000 expected by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son Hun Many, who organized the party.

“It should be appreciated that the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia held this event, because it gathered youth to watch sports rather than wasting their time using drugs,” said senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, a fan of the German team.

As kick-off approached, Sisowath Quay became almost impassble, with hundreds of motorcycles and tuk-tuks clogging up the road as fans attempted to maneuver for a good view of the match.

Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said despite the traffic congestion the fans on the riverside had been well-behaved and there were no reports of any crimes taking place during the party.

Although Mr. Tito had been rooting for Argentina, he said he was not too invested in the result of the final.

“I feel nothing,” he said after the game, “because we are just normal fans. We are not Argentinians.”

Mr. Tito said some of his forces were a bit fatigued after staying up to watch the game, but still managed to make it through an anniversary ceremony for military police in Kompong Chhnang province Monday.

“Some were yawning, it is normal,” he said. “We are humans, not machines.”

Kim Ngoensy, a 29-year-old hairdresser who attended the party, was also an Argentina fan, but said she enjoyed watching the prowess of all the international footballers.

“I like foreign football better than our local football, because they play well,” she said.

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