THE illegal and the legal are all ready for business from today with the starting of a major football competition -- the Euro 2012.
For those operating outside the law, especially the betting syndicates, it is time for big profits after lying low since the English Premier League season ended a month ago. It is now time to bring out the extra mobile phones, calculators, laptops with spreadsheets and put the bookies to work.
The loan sharks await the borrowers too, ever ready to send losers deeper into troubled waters, with tragic stories to surface later in newspapers.
Those in the legal business, the restaurant owners and pub owners, also hope to cash in by screening live telecasts of Euro 2012 matches with viewing parties.
But Kuala Lumpur Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said they would need to apply for special permission from City Hall to operate longer hours, Euro 2012 matches will be televised live from June 9 to July 2, from midnight to 5am.
However, applications from coffee shops to operate during those unearthly hours in residential areas would be carefully vetted by City Hall.
Realising the deafening excitement caused by a team scoring a goal during Euro 2012, the mayor said: "We don't want patrons shouting 'Goal!' in the wee hours of the morning and waking yp the residents."
Though Euro 2012 is held in Poland and Ukraine, which are not on Malaysians' list of popular Europe holiday destinations, you will get to hear about cities like Gdansk, Poznan, Warsaw and Wroclaw, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Lviv over the next three weeks.
Money will be made, and money will be lost, too. The gamblers among us care little about the beautiful game and worry more about the final scores.
Warning their members to stay away from betting and loan sharks are the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and Cuepacs, as many have been known to go into debt during major football events.
The black hand of betting syndicates in Southeast Asia, in particular, Singapore, reaches far and "white".
Recently, police detained five people in Hungary linked to an illegal international betting ring headed by arrested Singaporean Tan Seet Eng while Italy player Domenico Criscito was kicked out of the squad by Euro 2012 officials following a probe into a match-fixing scandal.
Closer to home, Malaysian referee Shokri Nor and former Kedah footballer S. Thana Segar were charged in a Singapore court last month in relation to a match-fixing case involving a Super League game between Singapore and Sarawak on May 22.
The spectre of foul play aside, when sport is untainted, the magic of football transcends oceans and continents as the hearts of fans the world over dance to its beat.
The romanticists truly get excited about the goings on the other side of midnight, when the artistry of the stars is on display.
But football's far-reaching impact is not without worries. With Euro 2012 fever on, employers have been warned of lower productivity.
According to the Malaysian Employers Federation, based on past experience, employers need to be prepared for higher absenteeism either through MCs or absent workers.
You can love your team and enjoy the live action. But don't overdo it on the other side of midnight. Don't let it affect productivity.