Special Correspondent

Bangalore: World Cup fever is spreading fast across Bangalore. Even die-hard cricket fans who seldom acknowledge the existence of other sports are busy debating the prospects of Germany, Brazil and Argentina. Bookmakers are beginning to accept wagers, but that will get going after the elimination stage.

The FIFA World Cup has become a merchandising exercise for many. And not just sports goods stores or those that sell jerseys with team colours. The hospitality sector is doing well with giant projection screens. Upmarket pubs, restaurants and five-star hotels have caught on to the game.

Taj Residency has planned soccer-related events at its Ice Bar and has kicked off its German food promo, honouring the host nation. Grand Ashok is displaying posters announcing a special scoring system where bills above Rs. 500 earn points and those with the highest number of points get to win prizes at the end of the season. Food items and beverages come with the colours of competing teams.

Taj West End has two special packages for the football season. Mynt has special offers, and at the Blue Bar matches can be seen on large screens while enjoying dishes from across Europe.

The Windsor Sheraton and Towers, clubs like Spinn and many hotels have installed LCD and plasma television sets with large screens for football fans. As goals are scored and missed, soccer fans will order more beer and food, the hotels expect.

Bangalore has even found a link between billiards and soccer. The Karnataka State Billiards Association has plans for large-size screens for its members as the matches progress.