Late nights in the Far East
People will go to extraordinary lengths for football. Any obsessed fan will tell you about that time they travelled a ridiculous distance, spent some exorbitant amount of money or blew off any number of real-life commitments to be able to support their team of choice.
The World Cup is the pinnacle of football and thousands of fans make the pilgrimage to whatever exotic destination it is being held. But there is a massive segment of supporters - bigger than any touring group - who make sacrifices to their jobs, relationships and health for the sake of football, who deserve some recognition for their efforts. We are the Asia-Pacific football fans.
From Seoul to Sydney, football lovers will soon be undertaking our quadrennial tradition of staying up until unholy hours of the night and early morning to watch as many World Cup fixtures as possible. Normal life will be put on hold for our unique species as we adopt our well-practised techniques that make following a European-time zone World Cup possible.
On the east coast of Australia, where I reside, the matches in South Africa will kick off at either 9:30pm, midnight or 4:30am. The slight differences for our New Zealand and Asian-based brethren don't make for much prettier reading. That's a lot of late nights and/or early mornings.
For those among us who just want to watch our team's fixtures (if they have qualified) and the big games at the finals, it's a tricky yet achievable goal. The odd sick day may need to be taken from work and we might occasionally have to apologise to our non-football friends for being too tired to meet up.
The next level of support, for those of us who feel we must see every big group fixture and all but the most unattractive knockout matches, requires more dedication and commitment. We will experience a major drop in productivity in the workplace and our general health will take a beating as we shift onto a diet consisting mainly of junk food. We will rarely see friends and family and our strange sleeping hours and seemingly muddled priorities will stretch most romantic relationships to their limits.
Then there are the absolute die-hards, the World Cup tragics among us. This is the category yours truly fits into. We set out to achieve the holy grail of 64 live matches of World Cup football, testing our social and physical limits to consume as many minutes of action as possible in the knowledge that once the tournament is over, it's going to be another painstaking four-year wait before we get our next sweet taste of the World Cup.
We obsessed types will either take extended leave or quit our jobs, evolve to live purely off pizza and coffee, break up with all but the most tolerant partners and put our social lives on hold completely or perhaps even fake our own deaths to make things easier for everyone.
Plans will be settling into place across this end of the world as fans plot their World Cup missions. New TVs and armchairs should be in place by now, fridges will be stocked with beer and the pizza delivery guy's number will soon be locked into speed-dial.
Some people who can't afford to lose their jobs during the tournament will alter their sleeping patterns to move themselves onto something nearing Los Angeles time - a daring strategy that allows for the watching of late-night matches while still attending work in the normal hours, accommodating sleep in those now useless late afternoon and early evening hours.
There are certainly challenges to this nocturnal lifestyle, but it presents its upsides as well. One thing about being a sleep-deprived, unshowered football zombie is that you are easy to recognise. Instant bonds can be created between fellow tragics when they see - or smell - each other on the street. Particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where football is not the number one sport, this can be a great way to feel like a part of the brotherhood of previously anonymous football fanatics.
Existing friendships with fellow football lovers can be magnified if the journey can be taken together. It's one thing joining mates at a bar to watch Brazil play Portugal at midnight, but it's quite another staying up with a World Cup buddy to watch a Group H dead rubber between Honduras and Switzerland at 4:30am. Realising a comrade has the same level of passion and commitment as you is a rare and beautiful moment in the football spectrum.
For fans in committed relationships, the World Cup month can be a tricky time. The TV will generally be getting the late night attention that would usually be reserved for that special someone. That dreaded phrase - "it's just a game!" - can rear its ugly head.
Alternatively, the World Cup testing ground can prove to the football tragic that he or she has found a companion who is genuinely respective and appreciative of their particular obsession. When I realised my partner was of the ultra-tolerant variety during Germany 2006, I decided then and there to marry that special lady.
So for those Asia-Pacific dwellers who are making the trip to South Africa, or those Europeans who are enjoying yet another World Cup in their time zone, spare a thought for us Far Eastern types huddled under our blankets and sipping our coffees while living and loving every minute of the nocturnal World Cup.