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13/07/2017 - 07:27

Ha noi - Hue - Sai Gon on the football field

Only after the liberation of the South and the reunification of the country, was I able to enjoy football games at the Freedom Stadium.

At this time, Hue often organized sports activities to celebrate holidays such as the unification day 30/4 or Independence Day 2/9. For many years a similar program had been continuously repeated. There was a morning boat race on the Perfume River and the afternoon football game was at the FreedomStadium, which was usually preceded by a bike race. I did not know how on earth it happened but the ten-year-old me was mesmerized by football games. As a country boy with no money to buy tickets, I had to walk up to 7 kilometers to the Freedom Stadium. But I definitely did not miss any match. Now, Hue football has become quite famous. There havebeen many teams coming to play friendly matches at the Freedom Stadium. Nevertheless, apart from the “neighbors” team from Da Nang, the teams that Hue people anticipated the most were teams from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There is no doubt thatthey are the top two national football centers. The attraction of the Hue - Da Nang matches was due to the "rivalry" between the two neighbors always extremely competitive, and neither wanted to lose. Matches with Hanoi teams (especially Hanoi Police) and Ho Chi Minh City (especially Sai Gon Port) were different. They originated from the position of the land,and the atmosphere on the grass field exudedthe tradition of unity of Hanoi - Hue - Saigon. Hue players and Hue spectators entered the stadium with a sense of pride. It seemed that the football organizers understood the situation so that the teams from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Hue often started at a low-level and gradually increased to a higher rank. The first time I saw the strongest team of the capital, Hanoi Police, play at the Freedom Stadium was in 1980. Compared to the Hanoi team then, the Hue players were smaller.

Just imagine, the pillars of Hue football after 1975 like goalkeeper Nguyen Viet Rot was only 1.58m tall; center-back Le Van Thuong was 1.54m tall; and considered as tall, middle line player Ton The Hien was just only 1.65m. Compensating for theirmodest height, Hue players had the agility, skillful technique and fiery passion in the game. It has been over dozens of years,but still I have not forgotten Le Van Thuong. Although being the smallest of the team,he had a convergence of the qualities of a central defender: judgment, intelligence, and trickery, which was necessary to limit the opposing team’s strength. The problem of fitness was not too contrasting between Hue and Ho Chi Minh City teams. The appeal came from a similar and dedicated style of play on the football field. There was Doan Thanh Lam,a Hanoi player originally from Hue anda top star of the Hue team, after the liberation. He was a new factorwho brought to Hue football a new feature, full of freshness.I will always remember the chants and applause that stretched out on the stands of the Freedom Stadium when the audience witnessed his great goals. It has been more than 20 years but many Hue people still have not forgotten the loudspeaker of the summer afternoon in 1995 when the Hue team met the Ho Chi Minh City Police team in the final game of the season. They were not only proud of Anh Tuan, Sy Hung, Quang Sang, Duc Dung ... in the Hue football team, but were also very proud and happy when they saw standing in the opposing team the players of Hue origin: Huynh Duc and Minh Chien. This is football. There are no barriers. It is fate that createsthe close, long lasting relationshipbetween Hanoi - Hue - Ho Chi Minh City. The story of love on the grass field associated with the rolling ball serves as a wonderful spice, adding unfading flavors to the relationship of these three regions in Vietnam.

By Dan Duy

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