Saturday , July 13 2024

I love football – Thankfully, so does Việt Nam

So how is the experience of being a football fanatic in Việt Nam, through the eyes of a migrant? To sum it up in one word; accessible.

Việt Nam loves football and gender is no barrier to the beautiful game here – VNA/VNS Photo

By Alex Reeves – @afreeves23

When I asked my editor whether we would be assembling an elite crack squad of accomplished writers (knowledgeable volunteers) to cover Euro 2024 this summer, I was a little disappointed to find out that 2022’s World Cup Warriors format, which got me my foot in the door here with Việt Nam News, sadly wouldn’t be repeated.

Every fan has an opinion and those of us with a passion for the pen, or the keyboard as it were, want the opportunity to write about it. So, never one to be put off, this week’s rambling is going to let me do just that. I love football, Việt Nam loves football, I can’t imagine living anywhere that doesn’t.

So how is the experience of being a football fanatic here, through the eyes of a migrant? To sum it up in one word; accessible. From replica kits, countless amateur leagues and every game imaginable on the box – it’s a paradise. Well, for those of us who can run in 35 degree heat and stay up past midnight anyway.

In all reality, this is a great place to be a fan of the beautiful game. Driving around any city here, it’s hard not to notice the sheer volume of ridiculously named teams whose shirts the lads adorn. There are 11 and 5-a side leagues that are well fought and organised in equal measure, readily established and a cursory glance on socials will lead any newcomer to them.

Those of us who’ve moved over from the Western Hemisphere will likely be familiar with the eye-watering price of a sports subscription. Hundreds of dollars a year are thrown at the chance to see the games, and with a night out at the pub equally as wallet puncturing, it sometimes feels like you’re being punished for something you love.

Here we have the luxury of football’s very own temple, namely, Puku Cafe. Truong Dao, the man to know when it comes to getting the game on, and his lively team are seemingly capable of finding any game at any time, with a very literal 24/7, 365-day-a-year policy. If Puku is the temple, then Bóng Đá Phủi is the gift shop, selling the latest replica shirts and some timeless classics at a fraction of the price back home. That said, if your playing days are over, be prepared for a snug fit.

Việt Nam loves football. Fans here celebrate a World Cup qualifier like they’ve won the tournament itself. On the occasion, they do bring some regional silverware home, expect to see ‘đi bão’, quite literally, ‘the storm’, as thousands of fans on vehicles of all kinds fill the streets into the late hours. Sports fan or not, it’s a cultural spectacle to behold.

Oh, and if you’re an England fan reading this, get down to The 100 Garden this Saturday and cheer on the lads with the rest of us. See you there. VNS

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