Jakarta. The start of this year's FIFA World Cup in Russia will coincide with the Idul Fitri holiday this week, which will give many Indonesians even more to look forward to as they head back to their hometowns to spend time with family.
The 2018 World Cup will open on Thursday (14/06) when Russia plays against Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The competition, contested by 32 nations, will end on July 15.
"I'll be watching the World Cup [opening] in Garut, West Java, where I will gather with relatives of my fiancée," said Muhammad Taufan, 26, an employee of a bus transportation company in Jakarta. He has been following football since 1996.
"A World Cup that takes place during the Idul Fitri festivities will be such a special occasion as we will now get to watch it with our relatives," he said, adding that he mostly watched the World Cup with friends previously.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, around 19.5 million Indonesians will be traveling to their hometowns during the Idul Fitri holidays this year, up 5.17 percent from last year.
Free-to-air television channels Trans7 and Trans TV, both part of Transmedia, owned by Indonesian tycoon Chairul Tanjung, have exclusive rights to air this year's World Cup in the archipelago.
The World Cup broadcasting rights for Southeast Asia vary in price from $7 million to $18 million, depending on the selected package and the number of matches, according to a report by Singapore-based online media company Mothership.
Transmedia announced in December that it will air all 64 World Cup matches.
Equal Enthusiasm in Malaysia
In Malaysia, where Islam is also the majority religion like in Indonesia, state-owned broadcaster Radio Televisyen Malaysia spent around $7.5 million for the rights to air 41 of this year's matches.
"Malaysians are more excited about the World Cup than Idul Fitri because the World Cup is only held every four years. So there will no problem at all, especially if you think that preparations for Idul Fitri have mostly been done earlier during Ramadan," Kuala Lumpur-based sports journalist Mohd Khairul Nizam told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.
Nizam said Malaysians traditionally also return to their hometowns during the Idul Fitri holiday, but that it is unlikely to dampen their excitement for the World Cup.
"Usually, when the World Cup enters the knockout round, some companies will organize special events at a few venues," he said.
"In the finals, there will be a big screen at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur where people will bring their own mats and food to watch it with family and friends," he added.