Cossacks patrol a street ahead of the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup in Rostov-on-Don. Picture: SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS

Although South Africa is not one of the countries to contest the 2018 FIFA World Cup, almost eight in every 10 (78%) South Africans with internet access have indicated that they are aware of its starting later this week in Russia.  

Looking at this group who are aware of the World Cup, South African opinions about the soccer spectacle are divided in four comparable groups:

  • About a quarter (23%) say “I am a passionate soccer / football follower and will watch as many games as possible at any given time”
  • Another quarter (24%) say “I follow soccer/football, but will only watch games played by my favourite league / club and national team”
  • Three in every ten (30%) say “I will very occasionally watch soccer/football games played by leading league / club and national teams” and
  • 23% say “I don’t follow soccer/football and do not watch soccer / football games at all”.

These are some of the findings of an online Ipsos study, conducted in 27 countries.

Interestingly, the host country, Russia, is one of those with the smallest proportion of passionate soccer supporters (only 9%) with a further 20% saying that they follow the game, but only when their favourite or national team is playing.  

Conversely, Saudi-Arabians, the host country’s opponents in the opening game on the 14th of June, are some of the most passionate soccer supporters, with more than 4 in every 10 (41%) online Saudis describing themselves as passionate soccer enthusiasts.

Looking at the international soccer-watching public’s opinion on which countries will come up tops, Germany and Brazil feature most prominently, also in South African opinions. 

Also read: Five football legends preview 2018 FIFA World Cup

While it will take more than a month before the winners and losers are determined, the spectacle will, without a doubt, attract a lot of attention world-wide.  

South Africans are no exception and although about a quarter of online South Africans (27%) are saying that they do not plan to watch any games or have not decided if they wanted to watch.

  • about two-thirds of online South Africans (65%) will be watching on television, 
  • on the internet (25%), 
  • on a mobile device (11%), 
  • on a tablet or an iPad (10%), 
  • they will listen on the radio (8%) or watch on another device 3%.

It is also certain that very few people will be watching the beautiful game on their own, in fact more than 80% of the people from the 27 countries surveyed, said that this will be an occasion to share with friends and/or family.

A similar figure of 86% of online South Africans also said that friends and family will watch soccer together, almost half (46%) will share the occasion with work colleagues and more than half (56%) will go to a bar or restaurant to see part of the World Cup.  

In keeping with the international trend, 39% of online South Africans will buy World Cup themed products. 17% say that they will miss work or school to watch the games.

More than a quarter (26%) will not put their trust in skill, talent and preparation alone and will have a good luck charm that they will keep with them during the games.  

Online populations in India (63%), the USA (54%), China (45%) and Saudi-Arabia (40%) admitted that they will also keep their good luck charms close. Serbians seems to be the least superstitious as only 3% of them will keep a good luck charm on hand.

Although Ipsos found that Russians themselves were not necessarily the most enthused about their country’s role as host, the rest of the world begs to differ.  

Large proportions believe that Russia should benefit materially and in terms of image by hosting the World Cup.

In total, 19,766 interviews were conducted between 20 April and 4 May 2018.