As ‘the kingdom of motorbikes,’ Vietnam seems to bring about more challenges for those living here to play some sports, locals and expats alike.
Even if the language barrier is excluded, expats still face a lot of challenges when looking for a suitable sport to play for both fun and physical training in the Southeast Asian country.
Most expats complain that they cannot play such individual sports as jogging and cycling at any time they like in public places, like on streets or in parks.
Those who play team sports like football need to have certain friends.
But experienced expats have a saying: just go and find a way.
It is quite correct in Vietnam and one expat alone can play football by just coming to a mini-stadium or an amateur club and they will be given the chance to join.
Playing sports in Vietnam in the eyes of expats
“I just want to jog but I am afraid of being hit by motorbikes,” a South Korean student in Ho Chi Minh City said.
It is true that playing the simplest sport like jogging is not easy for foreigners in this ‘kingdom of motorbikes.’
Irishman Steve Coyle, who has been living in Vietnam for over four years, said he cannot find a suitable team to play his favorite sports of football and baseball in this nation.
“I just wanted to keep fit by jogging in the morning in Hanoi but it is too crowded there,” he said.
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, he got acquainted with some other expats and is playing tennis with them.
Youngmo Yun, a South Korean student in the same city, said he likes jogging but parks here are too small for him.
He began jogging on streets around the city but he panicked several times when motorbike riders gave him warnings from behind on the sidewalk.
Training in the gym is not a favorite option for most people because it charges monthly fees and it is an indoor facility.
It is really difficult to find a good place to play outdoor sports in Ho Chi Minh City because it is overcrowded, even in parks or on sidewalks.
But those who know every nook and cranny of this city often come to District 7 for outdoor sports training.
Many newly built and wide streets there such as Nguyen Van Linh and Nguyen Huu Tho are not always busy and have large sidewalks for joggers.
An experienced individual can play football, too. One just comes to any nearby football club or mini-stadium and will mostly be welcome to join groups there to play with them.
It is a team sport and one will surely have many new friends there and learn the local language as well. Daniele Ghilardi, an Italian man, and Englishman Tobias Pocock know this city very well.
“In England, I played football in a team of 11 players but here I just play in a team of five because the stadiums are small,” he said.
“While playing, you must shout to your teammates who are locals and they will pass the ball to you,” Pocock said smilingly.
“That’s why I learnt Vietnamese words such as ‘sút’ [shoot], ‘chuyền’ [pass] while playing football here,” he added.
He said he can even argue with locals in Vietnamese.
Actually, those football clubs and stadiums are the training places of local people in the cool afternoon and many expats come there for both training and fun.
Three English students introduced themselves as Matthew, Kyle and Paul. They said they are in their gap year and decided to travel to Ho Chi Minh City.
They are newcomers but know well that swimming pools, parks, and sidewalks here are overcrowded.
So they opted to play football with locals in any stadium or clubs in the city.
Locals are friendly and willing to let newcomers train for a day and make an appointment the following day, one of them said.