Foreigners enjoy football-crazy Vietnam during World Cup

By Hoang Nguyen   December 6, 2022 | 05:29 am PT
Foreigners enjoy football-crazy Vietnam during World Cup
Foreign fans watch a World Cup game between France and Poland at The 100 Garden in Hanoi on December 4, 2022. Photo by The 100 Garden
Korean Yongjun Roh was elated after South Korea beat Portugal to advance past the group stage in the World Cup this week.

It was just one of many upsets in which teams from the east have routed their western rivals this year.

"The game was intense from the first until the very last minutes. It kept me and my friends on the edge of our seats all night. I’m so delighted that my country was able to get past the group stage of the World Cup after so many years," said Roh.

Roh, a research and development coordinator at an automobile factory in Bac Ninh Province near Hanoi, said he and 10 other friends had watched the game at the 100 Garden on Au Co street by the capital's West Lake.

Many foreigners in Hanoi like Roh have been gathering at sports bars and beer gardens to enjoy World Cup games.

"I love the football atmosphere here," said Roh.

"It feels like I’m in my hometown watching the games with my friends. We can have some drinks and talk about the players and the games. This place also has a much bigger screen than my TV at home," he added.

Even though South Korea eventually ended up losing 1-4 to mighty Brazil in round 16, Kim Hyung-sin, a Korean logistics employee in Hanoi, said he would continue to watch matches socially at outdoor seating areas with friends in the capital.

"The World Cup is only held once every four years, so this is a perfect occasion to gather."

Kim’s girlfriend Akiko Kadena, a Japanese teacher in Hanoi, has also been watching the games with him at the beer garden on Au Co Street. She’s still rejoicing after Japan’s historic win over Spain.

"I was here when Japan beat Spain. It was unbelievable for an Asian team to top a group that included Spain and Germany," she said. "The scene was incredible. I came here again to root for South Korea with my friends. I just love to enjoy the atmosphere with friends and other football fans. For each game, we divide the space into separate fan zones, which is a great idea. To go out and watch football in places like this is much better than staying at home."

Phan Thanh Trung, the owner of the beer garden, said that ever since the World Cup began, most of his customers have been foreigners.

"We often get 60-80 customers when teams like Japan or Denmark play. That number is 200-300 when England plays. 95% of the customers here are foreigners. During the match between France and Poland on Sunday, there were over 100 French fans and most of them had been living in Vietnam for many years," Trung said.

To get a seat in the beer garden’s fan zones, each customer pays an entrance fee of VND100,000, which includes a free drink. Trung has divided his space into three zones, two for fans of the national teams and one for neutral fans. Each zone has its own large-screen TV.

"Foreigners like watching football here because of the outdoor space, big screens and good food. We were expecting a large number of French fans for the match against Poland, so we served French comfort food that night," said Trung, adding that he changes the menu to cater to the fans of whichever teams are playing.

Fans celebrate a goal of France in the World Cup game with Poland on December 4, 2022. Video by Phan Thanh Trung

Trung said that even though the place is divided into fan zones, all the competition at his place is friendly.

"We all share the same passion, which is football," he said.

Through the cup, Trung has gotten an inside look at the different expatriate communities here in Hanoi.

"Japanese and Danish fans here are the friendliest, while English and German fans are the most passionate. I love the way they cheer for their teams. I’m really impressed by the Japanese fans who come in very large, well-organized groups of friends and family," he added.

Passing through

Foreign tourists have also been enjoying the World Cup atmosphere in Vietnam.

American Oliver Hernandez said he and the cousins he’s traveling with were surprised by the lively World Cup vibe here.

"In the U.S., [football] is not that popular," he said. "But I’ve traveled abroad a lot and only the U.K. can match the energy here. Vietnam is one of the most [football]-crazy countries I've ever seen. "

Josh Payne from the U.K. is visiting Hanoi with friends, and he said they love the way people gather to watch the games in the Old Quarter. During matches the alleys and streets are filled with fans snacking, drinking and cheering on the cup from small plastic stools.

"The atmosphere here is amazing. I feel like I’m in my hometown," Payne said.

Payne added that every eatery in the Old Quarter has large TVs – and of course "great beer."

The England supporter said the city will only get more vibrant as the tournament goes on.

"I think the streets will get really busy for the semifinals. I’m looking forward to that scene.

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