While a snowstorm was threatening to postpone today’s 2018 AFC U23 Championship final between Vietnam and Uzbekistan in China, and a false rumour briefly circulated online that Vietnam would be disqualified after two of its players failed drugs tests, Tuoi Tre News has been reaching out to expats in Vietnam about today’s game, and the hype that has come with it.
How does it compare to home?
“The closest Australia has ever got to this level of excitement was probably back in 1983,” said Australian Content Marketer David Barbeler, 32.
“That was when Australia became the first foreign country to win the America’s Cup – which is the world’s most famous boat race – after America had defended it for an astonishing 132 years.”
“In the celebrations, and after a few beers, our then Prime Minister, the legendary Mr. Bob Hawke, famously said on live TV: ‘Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum!’”
This will sound a little familiar to anyone who enjoyed free time to watch the semi-final on Tuesday.
However while the America’s Cup is a boat race, in football, despite Australia winning the most recent Asian Cup in 2015, according to David, ‘it barely featured in our news.’
“We love four different kinds of football in Australia, so it’s very rare that the whole nation ever gets behind one particular sport, let alone one particular team.”
|Team Vietnam. The XI that lined up against Qatar in the semi-final on January 23 at the 2018 AFC U23 Championships in China. Photo: AFC|
US Comedian and Artist Adam Palmenter, 36, was of similar mind, and struggled to remember anything that compared to what he’s seen in Vietnam this week.
“There really is no comparison, because the US is so large and divided,” he said, “every state has its own team they are faithful to across a number of sports.”
“As a country, the only victory we really celebrate together is when the McRib comes back on the menu.”
Irish Writer Connla Stokes, 42, also had to reach back for a comparison, all the way to Ireland’s historic run to qualify for their first ever European Championships in 1988.
“Just qualifying was a reason to celebrate,” Connla recalled, “there were no expectations for the tournament, so when we beat England, the ‘old enemy’, the whole country went crazy.”
Similarly, Italian Business Development Manager, Attilio Bottero, 37, remembers some ‘pretty wild’ street parties when Italy won the World Cup in 2006, while Danish Market Researcher Thue Quist Thomasen, 33, was able to reminisce on the euphoria of Denmark’s unexpected win at the Euros of 1992.
“We actually didn’t qualify,” he said, “but were allowed in when (the former) Yugoslavia were disqualified due to war. We were the underdogs who won it, and the whole country was out on the streets to celebrate.”
Of all those contacted by Tuoi Tre News, only Brazilian English teacher, Daniele Martins, 28, said that she’d seen this kind of fanaticism on a regular basis at home.
“In Brazil it’s pretty much like this all the time when it comes to football,” she said, “or sometimes worse.”
But who will win?
|Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai (right) celebrates after the second goal in their match against Qatar in the semifinals of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China on January 23, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Asked to make a prediction, many of those Tuoi Tre News spoke to were unsure, or like Restaurateur Calvin Bui Cong Khoa, 39, offered up some wild numbers.
“My prediction is 10-9 to Vietnam,” he joked, “I do like a high-scoring game.”
British Real Estate Director Alex Crane, 36, was more analytical.
“2-1 Vietnam”, he said.
“Uzbekistan got a great result against South Korea, but it took a player sent off and extra time to win the game. Vietnam seemed to grow in confidence against Qatar so hopefully they can carry this into the final.”
|Vietnamese Goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung makes a save at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship. Photo: AFC|
Fellow Brit Kevin Fox, 33, who runs a football school here, was more circumspect.
“I would love to be an optimist and say 2-1 for Vietnam, but after watching Uzbekistan, it is going to be a very tough game. If we can hold out for extra time and penalties, we can take it.”
Irishman Connla offered the most scientific prediction, having asked several Ho Chi Minh City locals himself - one street-side barber, one xe om and one uber driver.
“66.66% of respondents said Vietnam would lose to a very good Uzbekistan side,” he said, “but as far as I can tell, it’s likely to end in a penalty shoot out!”
Regardless of the result, everyone Tuoi Tre News spoke to agreed that the country was united behind their team, and that these young men were representing their generation superbly on the international stage.
|The Vietnamese players celebrate Tuesday’s semi final victory against Qatar in China at eth U23 AFC Championships on January 23, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
“I normally don’t watch football, and my wife is the same,” said Norwegian Designer and Photographer Mads Monsen, 44, “but we are both going to watch this match. It’s great to see people uniting and supporting their national side.”
“Football is a big sport in Vietnam,” said Attilio, “it brings people together. Hopefully this team can fulfil its promise in bigger tournaments from here.”
Ultra-runner Thanh Vu, 26, said that the team’s results highlighted a promising future for young talent in Vietnam.
“It’s incredible to see such outstanding performances from this generation of young athletes,” she said.
“It’s even more amazing to see the passion and pride of the spectators all over the country.”
|Celebrations get underway in Hanoi after Vietnam’s victory against Qatar on Tuesday, January 23 at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
“Vietnam’s joy is completely infectious,” said US Copywriter Shannon Brown, 29, “all of Southeast Asia are cheering them on, and that’s why I think they’ll win.”
“I hope they do win,” said Adam, “and I hope that the city goes bananas and that I get stuck in traffic again, surrounded by screaming fans, red flags and ecstatic locals who will invite me to drink beer with them and give me yet another reason to love being in this lively and unpredictable country. Viet Nam Vo Dich!!’
The U23 AFC Championship Final between Vietnam and Uzbekistan is on at 3.00 pm local time. Check your local guides for broadcast details.