With a long weekend to spare before heading back to the working world I was torn where to spend it watching football. A weekend in Kuala Lumpur perhaps, watching Selangor and then my beloved Hanoi take on Felda FC in that AFC Cup or a trip to Thailand to finally watch some league football (both Port FC and Bangkok Glass were at home). The possibility of a 4 day football bender in Vietnam…Saigon FC, Đà Nẵng, Hue and then on to Vinh to see SLNA, was also tempting.
In the end money spoke sense and I opted for an overnight train to Đà Nẵng to visit their new stadium when they host Quảng Ninh. I’d then head back up the coast to watch VLeague 2 Hue take on Dong Thap. I caught the Saigon v Hanoi draw live on the train via superb 3g. Glad I didn’t travel. The trains are always hit and miss, in terms of your compartment buddies. Last night’s was a miss. Within minutes a small child had covered most of the luggage in yoghurt (on an already sweaty train) and once I did get to sleep I was woken by 2 new small children screaming at 4 am as they boarded somewhere along route.
One of the highlights of train travel is the opportunity to meet some interesting characters. One lad in particular who works on the rigs off Vũng Tàu, informed me he didn’t watch V.League because of its poor quality. Having watched the Saigon v Hanoi game with him I couldn’t argue. The conversation then proceeded to him telling me why I should marry a Vietnamese lady.
18 hrs after departing Hà Nội I handed over my passport to check in to a cheap hotel near the station (I’d be moving on to Hue at 6am the next morning) only to be informed I was a week early! In my haste I’d book all of the weekends accommodation for next week! Fortunately everyone saw the funny side and they found me a room for the night.
After a quick wander around Đà Nẵng’s old Chi Lăng Stadium I was heading out, some 8km away, to the new purpose built, 20,000 capacity, football stadium in Hòa Xuân. Rising up over the Sông Cẩm Lệ River I could see the floodlights in the distance. I was getting excited, not a new city but my first new stadium in Vietnam since my trip to see Sanna Khánh Hòa back in July last year. One without a running track too!
The stadium is great, one large main two-tiered stand and then a separate bowl (rectangle) taking in the ends and the far side, which houses the noisy home fans. I was also pleased to see so many of the Bánh mì sellers had set up. The Chi Lang was renowned (in my eyes) as having some of the best sandwiches in the league. Confident, I purchased, and subsequently inhaled, two amazingly spicy mixed (various forms of meat, best not to ask) Bánh mì’s while the players warmed up. One sandwich sets you back 10k VND ($0.50). Match tickets range from 15-35k VND ($1.50).
Due to the sun fans trickled in late to the exposed stands, while many more packed in to the shaded main stand. Đà Nẵng began livelier than their fans, with Hoàng Minh Tâm knocking the ball around as they created attack after attack. Eydison and Hà Đức Chinh were looking a handful. For the visitors, Patiyo was holding the ball up superbly and bought time for his side each time Quảng Ninh cleared their lines. Home fans kept arriving throughout, 11,000 of them, and aiming for a prime view many packed the aisles on the halfway line.
The half ended goalless, although Quảng Ninh came closest to breaking the deadlock after a great goalmouth scramble, which was eventually headed off the line. I was looking at my 7th draw in 9 attended matches, a run going way back to a ridiculously cold day watching Hertford Town draw at Hoddesdon.
The second half was far more open with Quảng Ninh looking a real threat. The battle between Patiyo and Britez was great, with the big centre back totally flattening the visiting striker at one point.
The goal eventually came for the home side when Đặng Anh Tuấn finished from close range after Nguyễn Hoài Anh failed to hold Nguyễn Vũ Phong’s shot. The home fans then unveiled the spectacular! I’d noticed a long Golden Dragon running along the top of the stand above the home fans and when the goal came it started to breathe fire ( well, another of those massive sparkler things) and then water, just like the famous bridge in the city centre. You don’t get that at Westfalenstadion!
Both sides continued to press but it was the visiting fans that seemed to concede defeat when they set off their renowned firework/big sparkler display (normally reserved for goal celebrations) when their team won a corner with 8 minutes remaining.
Around the same time about 30 or so kids rushed to the corner of the main stand and began taunting the travelling support. It was brilliant. The Quảng Ninh fans looked on in disbelief, unable to rise to a bunch of 10 year olds, they were silenced.
Coach Hung sent Jardel on upfront in a last ditch attempt to salvage something from the game. The visitors pumped a few long balls up but couldn’t find a way through. A. Mit then sealed the points with the move of the game in stoppage time with a sweetly struck volley and topped off with some celebratory dance moves worthy of the strike.
The win temporarily moves Đà Nẵng up to 4th spot in the V.League, and with Merlo surely close to a comeback they look a good bet for a top four finish.
If you visit this new impressive stadium I’d suggest arranging return transport back to the city (motorbike, taxi, camel, anything just don’t walk!) As is normal here the stadiums and surrounding areas clear out pretty quickly, I headed to the main road in search of a cab or xe ôm, only to realise the new road goes to a new town, which is still being built! Not much passing traffic.
I reluctantly started the 5 mile walk when suddenly a taxi pulled over, “get in!” I jumped in with no regard for who was already in the cab. Turned out to be a very nice local chap and two ladies. For the second time on the trip I had to endure the marriage question. This time 10 minutes of the male passenger enthusiastically trying to marry me off to the single girl in the car, who looked mortified at such a prospect!
SHB Đà Nẵng 2-0 Than Quảng Ninh
Đặng Anh Tuấn 65′
A Mít 90′
Hòa Xuân stadium: 11,000