WE WANT YOU BACK: It was three years ago Việt Nam played Manchester City in a pre-season friendly. Probably best not to mention the score. Photo vietnamplus.vn
The distance between Manchester and Leeds in the north of England is about 70 kilometres.
On a good day, without any hold-ups on the motorway, it should take about an hour to drive between the two cities. Maybe less.
Yet last night, Man United and Leeds played each other quite literally on the opposite side of the world. More than 14,600km away at the Optus Stadium in Perth, Western Australia.
United are one of many top Premier League clubs who choose to warm-up for the season ahead in far flung corners of the globe.
It’s a great marketing opportunity to raise awareness, not that much was needed in the first place, of Manchester United around the world.
Liverpool this weekend embark on a three-match tour of the United States which includes a game at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, which incidentally is owned by the same people who own Liverpool.
Chelsea are playing in Japan, Tottenham in Singapore and China, Manchester City are also playing in China and you’ll find Arsenal pre-seasoning in the US.
These are amazing opportunities for supporters the world over to get the chance to see their heroes play live.
But from all these venues, there is one place missing, one place that has a fanbase just as, if not more passionate about football, than the United Kingdom, and that’s Viet Nam.
There was a rumour a few months ago that Liverpool were going to be playing in Ha Noi this year.
It was quite quickly rubbished for a number of reasons. First, the dates suggested were just a week or so after the Champions League Final, so that was a no-no, and secondly, as mentioned above, with Liverpool’s owners being American, that’s were any pre-season matches will be for the foreseeable future.
But it is something the powers that be here should seriously explore.
If a Liverpool, Man United or a Chelsea team were to decide to pre-season here in Viet Nam it would be a spectacular event for the country. And really there’s no reason why not.
A few weeks ago, an Asian-branded beer brought ex-players Rio Ferdinand, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo, Didier Drogba and Park Ji-Sung to HCM City for a football tournament.
The game itself between the former professionals and a local team may not have been much to write home about, and the players were probably paid a small fortune to play, but the fans' reaction to seeing their heroes was amazing.
And that could easily be repeated with more regular pre-season fixtures being arranged across the country.
Manchester City came in 2015 and a few years before Arsenal played here, much to the appreciation of thousands upon thousands of fanatical supporters.
It’s no secret that Vietnamese people are crazy about football. While the passion and loyalty to the national team is plain to see, many also have a deep knowledge of the game and would jump at the chance to see the likes of Mohammed Salah, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford in the flesh.
English, and indeed other European teams, see pre-season not only as a chance to get match-fit and prepared for the season ahead, but also a massive marketing opportunity.
And Việt Nam needs to get amongst it, jump on board and start speaking to the powers that be to get in on the act.
It is four years since City visited, and six since Arsenal came. We need to start writing the invitations, and get them in the post to all the top teams in Europe.
Next year, Hà Nội will host the biggest event in motor racing when a Formula 1 race takes place in April, so arranging a few football games should be child's play. VNS