Viet Nam News
by Paul Kennedy
The greatest night of my life was May 25, 2005. I was in Istanbul having just watched Liverpool FC beat AC Milan in the final of the Champions League at the Ataturk Stadium.
We shouldn’t have won. We probably didn’t deserve to win, but after 120 nail-biting minutes Liverpool overcame their Italian opponents in a penalty shoot-out.
I’m not ashamed to admit it, I shed a tear.
That night, and the following morning, the streets of Istanbul were painted red as thousands of Liverpool fans celebrated their unlikely victory. And when the team returned home with the trophy, thousands of people welcomed them as they paraded their prize around the city.
Monday night in Hà Nội reminded me a lot of 2005. In fact as far as passion, intensity and sheer joy, the supporters of Việt Nam surpassed those from my home city.
I was not in this country in January when the U23’s reached the final of the Asian Football Championship but I watched closely from afar.
I thought I was prepared for the reaction after the victory against Syria but I was still left opened-mouthed as I squeezed myself through the sea of red that had flooded downtown Ha Noi on Monday night.
It was quite simply breathtaking.
Việt Nam may not be recognised in any way, shape or form as a footballing nation but if spirit was enough to win games, I have no doubt they would be top of the tree. The crowds of people wearing red and yellow shirts and carrying flags aloft had smiles on their faces as broad as Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
This led me to wonder why people like being in crowds?
After a quick Google search I came across an article by clinical psychologist Dr Chris Merritt. No doubt he would have enjoyed Monday night in Hà Nội.
He wrote: “Humans have a biological drive to belong. We seek out social contact, not only because of the life functions it can fulfil, but also because it is inherently rewarding.
“These neurobiological mechanisms - built around opiate and oxytocin release in the brain - feel great, and make us want to socialise more.”
“When we identify with the group and feel part of a shared experience, the psychological benefits of being in a crowd are enormous.
“A huge number of studies show improved mood, reduced loneliness, greater self-esteem and feelings of belonging when we are in a crowd.
“Feeling part of something that is bigger than yourself is a major source of wellbeing. These rewards draw people into crowds, keep them there, and make them want to return in the future.
“When people identify with other group members, they are more likely to be kind to strangers in the group - this kind of altruism is known as ‘collective resilience’. There is even evidence it fosters improved physical health. Basically, it’s good for you.”
This describes Monday night’s reaction perfectly.
Sadly for Việt Nam their journey in the tournament came to an end last night at the hands of South Korea.
What happened in Indonesia may hurt right now but there are plenty of positives to take from the competition. This is a young team with a good coach.
I’ve been impressed a great deal by their desire to play good, one touch, pressing football. They have a good defence who will get better with age.
I have no doubt there will be plenty more nights in the future for the fans to come out in force once more and feel part of something far bigger than themselves. — VNS