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Thousands of Chinese Fans Head for Debut Game
Armed with flags, drums and bright red wigs, thousands of Chinese fans gathered in Kwangju on Tuesday to watch China's debut at the World Cup finals against Costa Rica.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 are expected. The more thrifty took day trips from China while others joined expensive packages including tickets for China's two other group C matches against Brazil and Turkey.

"China's in the World Cup for the first time so we had to come and support them," Pan Weisi, 31, a lawyer from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, said.

"Our fans have been waiting for such a long time so it's worth spending the time and the money to come here."

Lu Aihong and her group were dressed in Chinese strips and red wigs and armed with drums, national flags and banners.

"We're going to scream as loud as we can to support our team," said Lu, a 29-year-old securities analyst from Guangzhou. "If we shout loud enough we should give them a better chance of winning."

Until Tuesday, there had been little sign of the hordes of Chinese fans expected in South Korea during the month-long soccer extravaganza - officials originally predicted 100,000 would come but later lowered their forecast to 30,000-40,000.

Travel agents say most Chinese fans have bought packages ranging upwards from 5,000 yuan (US$600) for one match and one night's accommodation.

Pan said his group arranged their trip privately, buying three match tickets over the Internet for US$330 in total, return flights for US$400 and paying US$30-40 a night for accommodation.

Other fans took more extreme measures. About 185 fans from China's western province of Sichuan had chartered a Boeing 757 to fly them to Seoul.

Another 200 fans arrived in South Korea on Sunday after crossing China on motorcycles, beginning in April. They were praying for the survival of the Chinese and South Korean teams in the first round of the finals and celebrating the 10th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties.

The motorcyclists were due to join other fans in Kwangju on Tuesday before returning to China on Thursday.

(China Daily June 4, 2002)

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