|Pleiku Stadium is one of Việt Nam's few purpose-built football stadiums. Photo bongda24.vn|
There’s nothing quite like an away day.
The anticipation builds throughout the early morning start, sports radio crackles on the way to the ground, the buzz you get from entering a hostile environment, and if you’re lucky enough to see your team win, the ecstasy of silencing a full stadium of home supporters.
The spiritual home of the away day is of course the British Isles, where it seems every city, town, village and bus stop has a hated rival just down the road, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience some of that magic here in Việt Nam.
I’ve been dreaming of an away day or two since the dates for the V.League season were announced last week.
The 2022 V.League 1 season will run from February to November, an insanely long time to complete 26 fixtures per team even accounting for a mid-season break, but I digress.
Curiously, the dates of the fixtures weren’t released so it’s hard to begin planning some trips from my home in Hà Nội in earnest, but I thought why not put a wish list down in print?
It’s pretty shameful that I still haven’t made it to Thiên Trường Stadium yet, considering Nam Định City is only a 90-minute drive from Hà Nội.
It’s even more shameful when you factor in how rabid the home fans are supposed to be, making Nam Định one of the few proper football atmospheres in the vicinity of Hà Nội, as let’s be honest, Hàng Đẫy can often be quite stale.
Nam Định had a surprisingly good season last year after being tipped for relegation, so from a purely selfish point of view, here’s hoping they can run it back in 2022 and pack out Thiên Trường for a visit from Hà Nội FC, and yours truly.
Topenland Bình Định make the list not because I’ve heard great things about Quy Nhơn Stadium or even because they’re my dark horses for the title this season, though it’s debatable how dark a horse can be when it’s throwing money around left, right and centre.
No, instead this pick is all location, location, location.
Quy Nhơn Stadium is a 10-minute walk from a long, beautiful, sandy beach and (as long as COVID hasn’t destroyed the business) a half-decent beach bar.
I can suffer a bore 0-0 draw between Bình Định and anyone really, as long as there’s still sand between my toes and saltwater in my ears from that afternoon’s swim.
Hoàng Anh Gia Lai
Last season’s best team also have, from what I’ve been told, the country’s best football ground.
Few teams in the country have a purpose built football stadium without a running track separating fans from the action, and visiting SHB Đà Nẵng’s ground last year was a reminder for me of how football should be viewed.
Hoàng Anh Gia Lai also play some pretty scintillating attacking football under Thai coach Kiatisuk Senamuang, so watching some proper football in a proper ground would be a welcome treat in 2022 after two years of COVID-enforced disruptions. VNS