Life as an expat in Vietnam is all about learning the local culture. However, two weekends a year I get to share my Australian culture with my local Vietnamese friends.
Australian culture is very much about sport and I love being able to share my games, my culture with my Vietnamese friends. The pinnacle of the Australian sporting calendar arrives in the last weekend in September and first weekend in October.
Over the next two weekends the grand finals of both the AFL and NRL will be shown live in bars across Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam, and the games promise to be memorable in many ways.
AFL (Australian Football Leagues or Aussie Rules) is a game that began in Australia in 1896 and is followed by millions of people in Australia and around the world.
From 18 teams at the start of the season, we are now down to the top two sides.
This Saturday will see the grand final of the AFL with Sydney playing Geelong.
AFL actually has a rather big following in Vietnam with many foreigners and locals following the games on TV and at local bars, plus there is now a local competition for both men and women. Kickoff is at 11:30 am and many bars are opening early to host special parties for this event.
Being such a special occasion, I am inviting many of my Vietnamese friends to join me at my local bar in District 1 for a party and to watch the game.
It is equal to a world cup final in terms of its popularity in Australia, and also in the bars around Ho Chi Minh City and across Vietnam.
I am so happy that my Vietnamese friend love watching the game. Our last opportunity to have a party was before COVID-19 social distancing.
Twelve of my students and friends joined me at In Saigong Bar in District 1 to watch the game. The volume was up high and the 5 TVs and large projector screen all had the live stream coming in from Melbourne, Australia.
Now, 2022 sees a torrid battle of the in-form Melbourne-based Geelong Cats and the crowd favorite Sydney Swans.
With so many locals having family and friends living in Australia, their support of one or the other has already been decided. Everyone gets behind a team and enjoys the spectacle of the battle and being able to share the moment with friends.
Watching AFL matches is so much better when you are with a group of people. Every major center across the country will have bars that are showing the game.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the bars that will be open for special events include Coolabar in District 7, In Saigong and Phatty’s Bar in District 1, Just Bar Saigon in Binh Thanh and D2 and Jaspers Bar in District 2.
If you are not sure, just check social media for places that will show the game in your area.
|An illustration photo taken at In SaiGong in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City, one of the venue which will broadcast the AFL final game on September 24, 2022. Photo: Ray Kuschert|
But the fun does not stop with the AFL final. The following week, Sunday October 2, will see the grand final of the NRL.
With four teams to play off for the finals this weekend, many will stay at the bars after the AFL to see who will win the playoffs and progress to the big game next Sunday.
The NRL (National Rugby League) was first played in England at universities in the late 1800s. It was taken to Australia in the early 1900s with the first official game being played in Sydney in 1908.
With 16 teams in the competition from Australia and New Zealand, we are down to the four top sides.
After the playoffs this weekend, the top two sides will meet in the big game next weekend.
Bars and cafes across Vietnam come to a standstill around 5:00 pm when the “greatest game of all” has its biggest day of the year. It will be standing room only in many bars, especially here in Ho Chi Minh where there are many locals and expats that follow the game.
I simply adore sharing the experience of the NRL with my friends. We start the day with BBQ sausages on bread and some Australian red wine. As the game starts, the cold beer is served and the cheering begins. It is like a rock concert without music.
As soon as I shared the event, many of my Vietnamese friends quickly booked a place at the bar to join me for this once a year experience. We will eat the traditional Australian BBQ and watch the festivities being streamed live from the Olympic stadium in Sydney.
Unlike the AFL, the NRL is a night game, so we will be watching the 70,000 plus crowd soaking up the Sydney night air and spectacular colors as we sit under the shadow of Bitexco Tower to cheer on our teams.
This year, Penrith are favorite to win for the second year in a row, but the other three sides are all in with a good chance to upset Penrith on the grand final day. It will be a day of passion, grit and guts as the teams crash and tackle their way to victory.
Ho Chi Minh City has developed into a world class city, and with it has come a new culture of experiencing world events in new ways.
The Australian sports of AFL and NRL have been adopted by locals and expats from all over the world and are now played and watched in Vietnam by so many people.
If you are already a supporter of either game, make sure you invite a few local friends to watch the final this weekend or next.
If you have never watched a game of AFL or NRL, I promise you that this experience will be a moment you will never forget.
Get out to a sports bar this Saturday September 24, or next Sunday October 2, to watch the best of the best battle it out to be the champions of 2022. Your first game will not be your last. Go Swans and Happy Rugby League to you all.