I’m a bit behind on my match notes, so here’s the installment from last week in Saigon:
After the exhilarating 9 goal thriller at the Go Dau I was buzzing to be going to my second game of the weekend; Saigon FC hosting the well supported SLNA. Chris, on his final day of his holiday, was confined to the hotel, evidence his weak western stomach had had enough.
I hopped on a moto early and headed out to the Thống Nhất Stadium , the largest and most impressive in Ho Chi Minh City. Sadly that doesn’t say much as it’s typically dated (opened in 1960); a large bowl with terraces on three sides and a covered seated main stand. My driver was apologetic and somewhat confused as I’d guided him in to a sea of Yellow shirted football fans….”oh no, can’t go. Sorry sir, we stop here” He was genuinely worried for me as I don’t think he realized I was going to the game.
Hundreds of SLNA ‘fans’ had gathered. I say ‘fans’ because for many it’s just a day out, to say “I was there”. Many people from Nghe An province work and/or study in other cities, and they are some of the proudest people in the country (probably because their Province was the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh himself) but not too many know much, if anything, about football. Pushing through the hysteria I was greeted to a ticketless ticket booth, the touts had them all.
I wandered around and eventually paid over the odds, 100k for an 80k ticket, but was shaded at the back of the main stand, which had some very nice fans situated above me. The noisy home fans congregated in the sun with their drums and saxophone, but there weren’t many of them. The away fans packed each end, and in typical fashion the ‘neutrals’ filled the shaded main stand.
The yellow ends of the stadium were making great noise throughout a rather tepid first half. There were countless attempts at the Icelandic Viking Clapping thing.
After witnessing that great match between T&T and Binh Duong I was hopeful of another goal fest. It didn’t happen. Although both Odah Marshal and Phi Son impressed for SLNA, it was Saigon’s recent recruit, Dudu Lima, who got the only goal of the game with a headed after a fine cross from Duy LongTrịnh. The celebrations were wild and the incredible team spirit coach Nguyễn Đức Thắng had installed back in the old Hanoi FC was evident as the squad celebrated as one.
The travelling fans, many of whom had left with 20 minutes to go (while the score was goalless) were silenced and quickly began filtering out.
Not a great game, but a decent result for Saigon FC. Formally Hanoi FC and with so many ties to Hanoi T&T (captain Ngoc Duy, fullback Quoc Long & Xuan Nam on loan) I was please for the team that had been bizarrely relocated earlier in the season. Further evidence of their links to Hanoi was evident when I bumped into the whole Hanoi T&T squad as I left the stadium. They’d stayed on to support theirs friends and former players. Thanh Luong startled me as he ran over “Hey! Hello!” and then I couldn’t resist a couple of photos for the blog.
Next up: A visa run and down time. Heading to Pakse in Southern Laos before moving north and back to Hanoi in time for Sunday’s game at the Hang Day Stadium: Hanoi T&T v SLNA.
Sài Gòn 1-0 Sông Lam Nghệ An
Lima (60) 88′
Thống Nhất stadium: 10,000