Monday, August 3 2020


World Cup fever grips, but not here in Hà Nội

Update: June, 14/2018 - 05:00
Việt Nam U23 team seen in the AFC U23 Championship held in China in January. They finished runners-up for the first time in history. — Photo
Viet Nam News

By Paul Kennedy

Every four years something very special happens. The world grinds to a halt, businesses slow down to a crawl, and people are glued to television screens in living rooms and bars from Liverpool to Lahore. Why? The World Cup of course.

Am I excited? Am I delirious? Have I got a World Cup chart pinned to my wall ready to mark the progress of each team game by game? Honest answer? No.

I should be. I should be dusting down by St George’s flag and hanging it proudly from the 19th floor balcony of my Times City apartment. I should have "Three Lions" on constant repeat playing around the clock on youtube but this time around I’m feeling a strange empathy towards the goings on in Russia.

And I am not too sure why. Maybe it’s because I’ve become so used to England promising so much and delivering so little that I’ve just become blasé to the whole thing.

But I think the real reason for my ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude towards the tournament is because I’m here, in Việt Nam.

In the past, the competition has been quite literally thrust down my throat. Morning noon and night I would be bombarded with World Cup adverts on television, badly sung songs by footballers who think they can hold a note, and promotion after promotion every time I buy a Big Mac, beer or bar of chocolate.

But here in Việt Nam all of this seems to have passed me by. Sure, I can still log on to Facebook or go online to watch Ian Wright and Alan Shearer talk nonsense with comments like… ‘Anything can happen in a penalty shoot-out’ (No Alan, it can’t. Just ask the Germans), or I can still find out with a simple click who’s fit or not for the big kick-off, but living here means the World Cup is far from in my face.

What it needs badly is Việt Nam to be playing in Russia. Imagine that? At the beginning of the year the remarkable U23 team reached the final of the Asian Championships and was cruelly denied with virtually the last kick of the game.

And what happened? Việt Nam was bathed in a sea of red and yellow as the entire country cheered on the young warriors as they progressed further and further in the competition. Việt Nam in the World Cup. Now that would be a sight to behold. One day maybe.

But as events begin to unfold in Russia and games get underway I’m sure my love of all things football will come flooding back. Now, where did I put that flag?

The King gets knighted

Just about everyone in the world of football will have been delighted with the news over the weekend that former Liverpool FC player and manager Kenny Dalglish was to be knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Just about everyone, except for King Kenny himself.

Dalgish has always been a hero of mine. I watched him play and manage Liverpool to unbridled success in the 1980s and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him, and interviewing him, a number of times. Despite his legendary and iconic status, he is just a normal guy with an extraordinary talent. Off the pitch he has raised millions of dollars for charity and was a rock for fans and relatives of victims after the Hillsborough football disaster in 1989.

But will becoming a Knight of the Realm change him? I doubt it. And when asked this week that very question his answer was simple. “I’ll still have to take the bins out.”

No hope

Thanks to Janine Drew from Liverpool who posted this on Facebook earlier this week:

The England team visited an orphanage in Russia this week ahead of the World Cup.

“It was heartbreaking to see the looks on their poor faces. Looks of despair and no hope,” said Vladimir, 6, from Moscow. — VNS

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