While Vietnam is known for prowess in many sports, field hockey is not one of them. But Malaysian expat James Chew aims to change all that. Words by Harry Hodge
Vietnam sent its first national team to Singapore’s recent World Hockey League tournament. While the local players were outclassed in their first major international event, Chew believes it gave them good experience as they look to more competition abroad. As president of Vietnam Hockey, Chew has more than passing interest in the sport’s success.
“We were there to gain experience to prepare for next year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur,” he says. “The hockey world league is too tough for the fledgling Vietnam hockey team, but we learnt a lot from the tournament. All the teams there have at least 30 years of hockey history, whereas the national team of Vietnam only started in 2013.”
For context, China won the tournament, but they are ranked No. 19 in the world, with a team of full-time hockey players based in their own sports academy.
“For Vietnam there is no funding, (but) that is only one of the reasons,” Chew adds.
Field hockey is a team-based sport played on artificial turf or grass, depending on the competition level. The game is played with two teams, each having 10 players on the field and one goalkeeper. A game consists of 35-minute halves with a five to 10-minute break between the halves.
Chew is hoping that some steady local competition will help grow the sport and improve results for the national team, and explains that Vietnam Hockey is starting a hockey league in Saigon to give players more training and experience. The new league is currently seeking a sponsor, with the opportunity to attach a brand to the league for naming rights. At the moment, national team members train at the Vietnam Hockey Centre in Ben Luc, south of Ho Chi Minh City.
“The objective is to get more people in Vietnam to play hockey,” says Chew. “It’s crucial [to growing the sport].”
Later in the year, a Vietnam Hockey Festival is being planned for early November as another measure to provide more exposure.
California Prospect Camp Scouts VBA Talent
With the fledgling Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) set to launch in August, league representatives recently staged a tryout camp to fill out its rosters with overseas Vietnamese hoopsters.
Each VBA team will consist of one world import player, two Vietnamese heritage players, and 10 Vietnamese local players. In preparation for VBA, Saigon Heat CEO and VBA representative Connor Nguyen went to Fullerton, California, to host a tryout in late May to find Vietnamese heritage players, defined as players having at least one parent or grandparent that were Vietnamese or born in Vietnam.
Also in attendance were Vietnam national team and Saigon Heat coach Anthony Garbelotto, and assistant Coach Dave Singleton. There is also a special appearance by top Vietnamese heritage player David Viet Arnold who was on hand to give guidance to new potential heritage players.
Tokyo FC Bounces Becamex Binh Duong from Champions League
Ryoichi Maeda’s double helped FC Tokyo get through to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League after a 2-1 victory over Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong in Group E earlier last month.
Desperate for a win to secure a place in the knockout stage, Tokyo took the lead in the 20th minute at Go Dau Stadium. Maeda then scored his second goal with a fine strike 10 minutes into the second half.
In the 68th minute, Le Cong Vinh’s penalty, after Yuichi Maruyama brought down Cameroonian striker Nsi Amougou Christian, gave the hosts some hope. He also struck the bar and missed two later chances.
Sailing Race Makes Phu Quoc Debut
A yacht race was held for the first time last month on Phu Quoc Island off Vietnam’s southern province of Kien Giang.
The race kicked off at Dinh Cau Beach in Duong Dong Town. It was jointly organised by the Kien Giang Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Thien Vu Advertisement Joint Stock Company, as part of the activities to celebrate the 2016 National Tourism Year. The race attracted 27 teams with a total of 54 local and foreign contestants.
Contestants sailed twin-hull catamarans manufactured by the Vietnam-Czech Joint Stock Company.
According to the organisers, the event was intended to promote sailing not only in Kien Giang but also other coastal cities and provinces. It was also seen as a chance for amateur and professional athletes to meet and share their personal experience in practicing the sport. Nearly 1,000 people came to the kickoff event to watch and cheer the contestants.
Europeans Top Podium in Ironman
France’s Cyril Viennot and Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen took the men’s and women’s titles, respectively, of the VNG Ironman 70.3 Vietnam 2016 in Danang last month.
Viennot, who finished fourth last year, clocked a time of 3hr 54min 9sec to win the men’s title, with Tim Van Berkel, from Australia, coming in second and fellow countryman Luke McKenzie arriving in third, just five minutes of the pace.
Swiss athlete Caroline Steffen, who won the VNG Ironman 70.3 Vietnam in 2015, defended her title in this second edition of the race in a time of 4hr 12min 18sec. Czech Radka Vodickova finished second while Liz Blatchford ranked third after finishing in 4hr 19min 46sec.
Steffen said it was a tough race for her this year as defending champion.
“Winning the title is hard, but defending it is even harder,” she said. “I’m very happy to win again in Vietnam. I had a good start with swimming and a good run after a bike race in very hot conditions.”
Steffen said she would donate to Newborn Vietnam — a programme to reduce deaths of newborn babies in the country — from an auction of her souvenirs this year.
VNG Ironman 70.3 Vietnam 2016 drew over 1,100 athletes representing 60 countries, including more than 25 professional triathletes and 50 relay teams. Athletes completed a 1.9km ocean swim, a 90km bike race and a 21km run along the coastline of Danang.