A drab 1-1 draw at the beach kicked off my month on the road in the VLeague

Sanna Khanh Hoa 1 – 1 Becamex Bình Dương 

Khánh Hòa , home to what is often regarded as the best beach in Vietnam. The city of Nha Trang runs along a stunning 6km bay. We arrived on the overnight train from Danang, along with 100’s of other tourists seeking out more beach time.

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Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa Province

The city is smothered in huge towering hotels to accommodate the bus loads of Asian, I’m told mostly Chinese, tourists and thousands of non-smiling Russians.

Shop fronts are in Russian. Menus are in Russian. Specialist restaurants offer Russian, Ukrainian and even Armenian fare. Middle aged Russian women stand outside their Spas and souvenir shops desperately flyering anyone that seems Russian. I resemble a Russian.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t here to enjoy the beach, but the main attraction for me was Sanna Khánh Hòa FC, the provinces VLeague pride and joy (for few anyway). Fixture scheduling and cost of flights had delayed my visit. Now, job free, it’s time to get to some of my missing stadiums.

A close as I got....

A close as I got….

Nha Trang is strange. Stunning scenery but certainly the least ‘Vietnamese’ place in the whole of Vietnam. Baby crocodiles are bred, killed, stuffed and then posed to look like Mick Jagger with a pearl between their teeth. Maybe this is what the Russians like. They smoke a lot too.

We, I’m joined by Chris Sincs on his second trip to Vietnam, focus on the good. Most hotels come with rooftop pools, providing great distance between us and the souvenir shops, offering great views out across the ocean and the surrounding Khánh Hòa Mountains.

The Stadium is only a couple of blocks from the huge beach. Not too keen on sunbathing I headed to the stadium early and found the main entrance open. Wandering in I was hoping to grab a picture pitch side before anyone turned up. Much to the confusion of an older lady guarding the door I wandered by using my terrible Vietnamese. She shouted. An old man appeared, grabbed my shoulder and then asked “where are you from?” “England” I said. He burst in to hysterical laughter and did an impression of a terrible footballer…..mocking me for our recent defeat at the hands of Iceland. I left without a pitch side photo. I’ve never said England are any good! In fact on the Hanoi Football Show I predicted our downfall, yet as an English fan of football  I am always a target for mockery.

Binh Duong's travelling support

Binh Duong’s travelling support

The stadium, sân 19/8 Nha Trang , is set a couple of blocks back from the northern end of the main beach. It’s small, with 4 low terraces sweeping around a rather unorthodox athletics track. There’s a roof along a third of one side covering the ‘main stand’ and another shed like roof protecting the obligatory home band. Like with  most stadium locations it doesn’t seem to be set in the most desirable of areas, surrounded by the typical array of street barbers, mechanics, beer wholesalers and a couple of fresh beer stalls, occupied by some hardened drinkers who looked like they had been there since sunrise.

Pre-match workout?

Pre-match workout?

Hanoi T&T had already visited earlier in the season, losing 1-0. We’d be attending the visit of league champions Becamex Bình Dương . The champions had been struggling since their elimination from the ACL and even more so since their talisman and central midfielder Moses moved to Kuban Krasnodor in Russia. An upset was potentially on the cards.

Chris was impressed at the sight of a noisy 30-40 away fans. I opted for the 30k VND ($1.50) tickets, making Chris laugh when I said I’m not paying top rate, 90kVND ($4.50), to watch these teams! The first half was poor, very poor. Bình Dương lacked any rhythm and surprise signing, Ivan Firer, was failing to trouble the home defence. Half time brought a tasty Banh Mi and a very confused policeman who had no idea of the team represented on Chris’ scarf, Hertford Town!

Uche, Khanh Hoa’s main striker and Hanoi Football Show favorite, looked dangerous but lacked support. Binh Duong eventually broke the deadlock when Lê Tấn Tài (56’) struck low from distance.  The goal only served to kick start the home side in to action. A period of high intensity and short passing led to Lâm Ti Phông (61′) equalising just 5 minutes later. A well-deserved goal following easily the best passage of play all afternoon.

 Sanna Khánh Hoà BVN 1-1 Becamex Bình Dương

With half an hour still to play both teams sat back and the injury to Amougou up front for the visitors removed any chance of Bình Dương sneaking a win. A 1-1 draw was a fair result for what was a rather drab match.

We left chaperoned by an older fan keen on practicing his English. Home fans were certainly pleased to see us attending the match and once again I was left bewildered that we were the only (as far as we could tell) foreigners attending…..even though the town is littered with sports bars to accommodate the tourists footballing needs.

Next up, another overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City and a double header: Binh Duong v Hanoi T&T / Saigon FC v SLNA.

Sanna Khánh Hoà         1-1       Becamex Bình Dương

Lâm Ti Phong 61′                       Lê Tấn Tài  52′

Stadium: 19/8 Nha Trang, 6,500

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