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Vietnamese youth have a blast with paintball

Update: September, 21/2014 - 20:39

Playing ball: Paintball games are the newest trend in entertainment for many young people and office workers.

by Trung Hieu

Paintball games have become an extremely popular pastime among the youth in big cities such as Ha Noi and HCM.

Nguyen Tien Cong, deputy director of the Tri Long Paintball Gun Club, said the game has become popular in more than 60 countries around the world.

The game was first introduced to Viet Nam in mid-2010, and the first paintball games were organised in HCM City, Da Nang and other cities and provinces before they were introduced to Ha Noi.

"We are associated with Air Defence Brigade 77 to establish the first paintball club in HCM City, in an effort to make the sport popular in Viet Nam," said Cong.

The Tri Long club has a three-hectare site where players engage in various levels of the game, from the simple to the complex.

"At first, you feel afraid to fire the first painful shot, but after completing the experience and going through the feeling of being shot, everyone is smiling and eager to play with guns. We can say that paintball has gradually become a new pastime that is extremely healthy and rewarding for young people."

Workout: The game helps players boost their physical fitness and eye-hand co-ordination.

At the Ha Noi Paintball Gun Club in Tu Liem District, the air reverberates with the boom of guns beginning around 10am on weekends. Built on a 1,200-square metre site along Thang Long Road, the club has set aside eight yards of land for mock battles.

Months after it opened, the club has attracted quite a following among the young, who troop to the club's battlegrounds to experience the feel of guns and the stress of battle.

Amid natural and artificial terrain consisting of obstacles, bunkers, depots and imitation aircraft, young Vietnamese in soldiers' uniforms, armour and helmets clash with each other in fierce but fun mock gunbattles.

Players pay for entrance tickets, buy paintballs and rent guns, armour and helmets before being grouped for battle. Before playing, they are trained on how to use a gun, move on the battlefield, hide among obstacles and take advantage of terrain to defend or attack.

Each battleground has mounds of sand, oil drums and bamboo fences to give players the feel of a real battleground.

The guns are made of aluminium alloy, weigh about three kilos each and are effective at a distance of up to 300 metres. Compressed air or carbon dioxide (CO2) tanks are attached to the rear to create recoil pressure for the bullets, which consist of wheat flour wrapped in thin plastic layers. When a bullet hits its target, it breaks easily without causing pain to players.

Before players enter the game, they have to get acquainted with the mock battlefield.

Players are equipped with camouflage uniforms, boots, armour and gloves. They are also made to wear protective masks made of resilient plastic, to ensure safety from possible shooting injuries.

Each team must have at least 10 members who are divided into two groups of five each. Each group designates a captain. Each team is assigned a referee who distributes tasks to each captain, gives the battlefield maps and provides guidance on the rules of the game.

The captain assigns tasks to each group member and plans the combat manouevres.

Attacks and manouevres and the resulting exchange of gunfire between soldiers in red and soldiers in blue end when the bullets hit their mark, splashing streaks of red paint on the losers' uniforms.

Trendy game: Paintball is popular with young women as well as men.

Paintball clubs in Ha Noi

1. Ha Noi Paintball Gun Club at the 1st km of Thang Long Road, Tu Liem District;

2. My Dinh Paintball Gun Club at 8 Le Quang Dao St, Tu Liem District;

3. Tri Long Paintball Gun Club in Lane 136 of Ho Tung Mau St., Cau Giay District; and

4. Tay Ho Paintball Gun Club at 80 Lane 445, Lac Long Quan St, Tay Ho District.

The losers stand up, raise their arms and walk out of the scene of battle as the referee orders a halt to hostilities. In this instance, it is the blue team that emerges victorious.

"The feelings we have when we roll, scramble and lie on the ground, hide behind obstacles and hear bullets flying overhead is so different. As we play this game, we experience the fierceness and stress of a real gunbattle," Nguyen Minh Hung said excitedly.

Hung expressed the belief that the game has helped players sharpen their senses, make smart moves and handle emergencies quickly.

Pham Kieu Oanh, a young female player, said paintball really helped to strengthen people physically and mentally and relieve them of stress.

"I have tried playing this game a few times and I was very pleased. The feeling of shooting down an ‘enemy' is quite strange and inspiring for me. Thanks to the full body movements that this game requires, I can reduce my weight significantly," Oanh remarked.

Cao Ngoc Huy, a marketing student of the University of Finance, said: "I took part in this game because I found it strange at first. This is also a way to achieve fitness because players must run and jump, and end up bathing in sweat."

Does the game promote violence among the young? "Actually, the paintball gun is not the gun used in real combat," said Huynh Tien Tan, manager of a paintball gun club.

"It is shaped like a real gun and uses compressed air to fire bullets made of coloured wheat. Ammunition is made of clean material which is non-polluting and causes no damage. When it sticks to clothing, colored wheat is easy to wash off. So shooting paintball guns is like the mock battles we used to play during our childhood."

According to Tan, the game is suitable for groups of friends and colleagues.

"In addition to the physical exercise that players have to engage in when they run and roll over rough terrains that resembles real battlefields, the game also helps players to improve teamwork and team building spirit because players must find ways to support and protect their teammates," he said.

These days, students and young office workers choose this game on weekends as a way to relieve stress after hours or days of hard work or study.

Thanh Tam, 26, an accountant at a construction material trading company in Ha Noi, said she had played the game for the first time with nine colleagues.

"At the end of the game, we were all quite sweaty but felt quite cheerful. We were really dead tired but also felt quite happy because during the fighting, we had to focus on fighting and forget all our worries," she recalled. — VNS

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