Monday, July 9, 2007

Hanoi immune to soccer fever?

Asian Cup 2007.
So much for “soccer-mad” Vietnam. You’d hardly know the Asian Cup was taking place here if you sidestepped the stadium.

Driving into the city center from Noi Bai International Airport you are met with a relentless bombardment of advertising - Vietnamese products, Chinese, Korean - but nary a mention of the Asian Cup until you reach the heart of the city, and even then you have to make an effort to spot the smattering of signs draped from light and telephone poles.

Yes, My Dinh Stadium was close to capacity last night for the Group B opener between Vietnam and the UAE, the host nation’s first match at the continental championship in 47 years, and yes, thousands of people were huddled around TVs throughout the city to witness the historic encounter.

But when the whistle blew to give the co-hosts a shock 2-0 victory, the wild celebrations inside the stadium stayed put. There was no ripple effect.
It was very much business as usual at the Funky Monkey bar in central Hanoi less than an hour after the game, with zero sign that any one of the 30 (mainly local) patrons even knew of the existence of the tournament.

Unlike the wild scenes throughout Germany last year at the World Cup following a victory by the home team, Hanoi was for all intents and purposes not interested last night. The place was abuzz as usual with a disorienting number of motorcycles whizzing to and fro, but there were no Vietnamese flags being waved nor any noticeable rise in the cacophony of vehicular noise that is the soundtrack to life in the capital city.

Proud of their win? You can count on it. But perhaps it’s going to take a victory over Japan or a ticket to the second round - or both - before soccer fever really sets in.

Copyright © C.G. Williams & Soccerphile.com

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