Australian Rules Football is gaining strength in Vietnam. This year is set to be another big one. Words by Harry Hodge
With the Year of the Monkey ahead, there will be no monkey business for Vietnam’s Aussie Rules footballers, with the return of an annual springtime event and a high-profile tournament this autumn.
This year will see the Swans make their annual ANZAC Day clash at the Lord Mayor’s Oval (a.k.a. the greyhound track) in Vung Tau on Saturday, Apr. 23, where they face the Jakarta Bintangs.
The Swans’ Anzac Friendship Game continues to grow in stature each year, with the 2016 game to be no exception. Record crowds are expected owing to the 50th Anniversary year of the Battle of Long Tan, a battle of great significance for Australian troops during the war.
The Bintangs and Swans have a colourful rivalry, which stretches back to March 2006 when the Bintangs first travelled to Vietnam for a game against the Hanoi Swans at the United Nations International School (UNIS). This was the Swans’ first recorded win, defeating the Bintangs 6-7 (43) to 2-4 (16).
“We have built a great rivalry with the ‘tangs over the years with some classic encounters at recent AFL Asian Championships. This year’s game should be no different,” said Vietnam Swans national president Grant Keys.
This year’s Friendship game and ANZAC Day will include the annual McMillan dinner, with proceeds helping support the club and its associated charities, notably Swim Vietnam.
The big news for the club is the scheduling of the Asian Championships in Ho Chi Minh City on Oct. 15 at the RMIT Campus in District 7. Teams will be 12 players a side and will include the first women’s AFL side made up of Viet Celts Ladies and Saigon Ladies Gaels players. They will be teaming up in a proposed Vietnam vs. “world” players. Previous incarnations of the tournament have taken place as far afield as Thailand and the Philippines and elsewhere.
“We are expecting over 400 competitors to RMIT Saigon, which will include two female teams for the first ever women’s Aussie Rules international in Asia,” Keys said. “The Swans have made the semi-finals three times at previous Asian Champs, but have never cracked the big one.
“It’s going to be a massive weekend of footy with a big after-game party also being planned.”
For further information on these events, visit vietnamswans.com
Thang to Take Over National Team Coach Reins
Former national team defender Nguyen Huu Thang signed a two-year contract with the Vietnam Football Federation last month, following the departure of Japanese manager Toshiya Miura, writes Tuoi Tre.
Thang, who was on the national team from 1996 to 2002, is rumoured to be getting at least VND100 million (US$4,464) in monthly salary to take over the position, but the VFF has said contract regulations mean his salary will not be revealed to the media.
Thang recently coached Song Lam Nghe An, playing in the V-League 1. Thang won the silver medal in the Southeast Asian Games in 1995 as part of the national team.
He began his coaching career in 2005, three years after retiring as a player. He won the V-League 1 in 2011, becoming one of the only three Vietnamese citizens to win the title as both player and coach.
Vietnam Preparing Olympic Squad
Vietnam expects to send 15 athletes to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil to compete in swimming, shooting, weightlifting and other disciplines, according to the National Administration of Sports and Physical Training as reported by Thanh Nien.
Six athletes have already qualified for the event, including swimmer Anh Vien, shooters Quoc Cuong and Xuan Vinh and three weightlifters.
Around nine more athletes are expected to qualify for the Olympics in the coming months, Phan said.
These athletes are Quach Thi Lan and Quach Cong Lich in track and field, Hoang Quy Phuoc in swimming, Nguyen Tien Minh and Vu Thi Trang in badminton and others in taekwondo, wrestling, judo, shooting and women’s weightlifting.
Vietnam is investing more than VND48 billion (US$2.1 million) in training its athletes for the Olympics, which will be held from Aug. 5 to Aug. 21 in Rio de Janeiro.
Saigon Heat Headed to Playoffs
The Saigon Heat completed the play-off bracket for the 2016 season of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) with an 84-80 victory over the Pilipinas MX3 Kings at the Malolos Sports and Convention Center in Malolos, Bulacan, earlier in February according to the ABL website.
Lenny Daniel dominated the game for the Heat with 29 points, 16 rebounds and 3 assists, playing all 40 minutes and shooting 14 of 21 from the field. Moses Morgan added 22 points and 5 rebounds while Paul Williams and David Arnold added 13 points apiece.
Saigon found it hard to shake off the pesky Kings in the first half. Pilipinas MX3 actually held the lead for much of the second quarter but a strong finish by the Heat punctuated by a buzzer-beating triple from Morgan gave the visitors a 48-41 advantage heading into the break. The Heat avenged their last loss to the Kings by eliminating them officially from the race for the top four.
Hanoi T&T Bounced from AFC Champions League
Vietnamese league club Hanoi T&T have bowed out of the 2016 AFC Champions League after suffering an emphatic defeat against a Korean side in an away game last month, according to Tuoi Tre.
Taking on heavyweights Pohang Steelers at Pohang Steel Yard, the Vietnamese visitors left stars Pham Van Quyet and Pham Thanh Luong at home, bringing to South Korea only 16 players in their play-off game against the hosts.
The hosts opened the scoring in the 35th minute, as a pass from midfield found Dong Woon Sim, who dashed to lob the ball over Vietnamese keeper Tran Anh Duc.
Pohang Steelers netted two more goals in the second half, with Dong scoring a brace in the 62nd and 84th minutes, completing his hat trick. The final score was 3-0.
Pohang Steelers advance to the group stage of the 2016 AFC Champions League, where they will encounter defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande of China, 2007 winners Urawa Reds of Japan and Australia’s Sydney FC.