by Ha Nguyen
Despite the economic downturn, the Euro 2012 Football Championship has brought joy to millions of fans around the world, including in Viet Nam.
Nguyen Van Bat, of Ha Noi University, said football was the main topic for discussion at his family's dinner table, which all four members, including his wife, joined in.
"We have stayed awake together to watch all the matches every night since the championship started on June 8. We discuss football techniques, our favourite footballers and which team will be crowned champion, plus who will be the top players," said Bat.
"My entire family is fixated."
Bat's wife, Hoang Thi Diep, said she was particularly interested in watching football programmes, to hear comments from journalist Vu Cong Lap.
"Lap seems to know everything related to football. I like the way he presents news reports or stories," said Diep.
"My husband and I studied and lived in Ukraine for a decade, so of course we are fans of Russia and Ukraine. We were very happy to hear Lap's story about late coach Valery Lobanovski, who was known worldwide. The former Soviet Union achieved many triumphs under his stewardship.
"Although Lobanovski has gone, his student Andriy Shevchenco, who helped Ukraine win 2-1 against Sweden on June 12, makes us feel like we are in heaven."
Diep said her son had hung photos of the family's favourite players everywhere in her house.
In Cau Giay District, Trinh Van Bang, a self-professed football addict, knows why football is more popular than ever. He takes in all the matches at popular venues, such as Loc Cafe on Le Duc Tho Road or Fashion Bar on Ho Tung Mau Street.
"At these places my friends and I can cheer loudly and share the excitement with surrounding people," said Bang.
The giant TV and abundant drinks had a lot to do with it.
Bang said he was behind the German team but his friend was rooting for the Netherlands.
"I was so happy that my German team won 2-1 against his Netherlands."
Bang's friend replied: "It's a pity that the orange team was among the first to go home from Euro, I was very upset."
Of course, Euro is as much about the wallet as matters of the heart. Far away from Europe there's still money to be made from the championship.
TV shop worker on Ba Trieu Street Luong Van Hao said TVs had sold well since the matches started early this month.
To enjoy the champs, many families buy LED TVs because of the quality screen, said Hao.
Fans can also have their favourite player printed on T-shirts. A visit to the Old Quarter streets of Hang Bong, Hang Dao and Hang Ngang and VND20,000-25,000 will get their beloved player on their chest. Other quick cash schemes include CD-ROMs, priced at VND100,000-120,000 each, handbags and wristwatches.
Meanwhile, my elderly neighbour, Ngo Van Bien, wakes up early in the morning to buy The Thao&Van Hoa (Sport&Culture) newpapers for hot news on football.
"There are a lot of newspapers on the stall but I'm only interested in The Thao&Van Hoa because the news and feature stories are hot and interesting," said Bien.
The Euro tournament has also brought cheer to many sick and bedridden patients throughout the land.
Take dialysis patients at Huu Nghi Hospital as an example. During their four-hour treatment, they talk about the matches and gamble on their favourite team, said patient Minh Binh.
"The money we make from gambling will be used to buy batteries for our sphygmomanometer, which is very important to keep us going," Binh said.
Euro helped them temporarily forget their illness.
However, some fans in remote areas, such as Dak Nong, Da Nang, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh and Khanh Hoa, haven't been able to watch the tournament.
Truong Trung Hoa of Dak Nong TV Station said households using illegal parabols would not receive football matches because Viet Nam Television had the rights to broadcast all matches.
"VTV locks its satellite cipher key so those using illegal parabol will not receive Euro matches live," said Hoa. — VNS