Fan fervor high for Vietnam's home games in World Cup qualifiers

By Hoang Nguyen   November 8, 2021 | 07:30 pm PT
Vietnam have not won a single match in the World Cup qualifier finals, but fans are proud of the team’s achievements and excited about upcoming home games.

Vietnam will play Japan and Saudi Arabia at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi in November.

At 9:45 a.m. on October 27, Nguyen Thanh Luan, a football fan in Hanoi, had already opened the VinID app and refreshed it, because it was the exclusive ticket sales outlet for Vietnam's home games.

"The sale will open at 10 a.m. I have to be prepared because there are so many people who want to buy the tickets," Luan said.

Luan was right. In just 10 minutes, the highest price stands of VND900,000 ($39.7) and VND1.2 million ($53) were sold out. The lower price tiers - VND500,000 ($22) and VND700,000 ($31) - were still available, but many people couldn't purchase more than one ticket on the app. Twenty minutes later, all tickets were sold out, even though prices were double that of previous home games.

"I was lucky enough to get two VND1.2 million tickets, for my football buddy and me. These are at stand B and we should have the best view in this game," Luan said.

A pair of tickets to watch the World Cup qualifiers between Vietnam and Saudi Arabia in My Dinh Stadium that worth $53 each. Photo by Nguyen Thanh Luan

A pair of tickets to watch the World Cup qualifiers between Vietnam and Saudi Arabia in My Dinh Stadium that are worth VND1.2 million ($53) each. Photo by Nguyen Thanh Luan

Since the games can only welcome 12,000 people, the fans get around 7,000 tickets and the rest go to partners and sponsors.

Not everybody had Luan’s luck. Cao Tuan Lam failed to get a ticket for the games.

"I was late to log on because I overslept. At 10:20 a.m., it was impossible to buy a pair of tickets. Well, I guess I’ll have to watch the games at home. It’s also really nice to enjoy them with my family. I’ll buy beer, snacks and wear my Vietnam flag shirt for the football nights," Lam said.

Many have chosen to pay black market prices for the tickets instead of staying home like Lam. Several forums and Facebook groups are selling the tickets for more than double the original price.

"I’m willing to buy the tickets from resellers, although they are really expensive. It’s not every year that you get to watch Vietnam play in World Cup qualifiers matches at home. This is a rare occasion and I think it’s worth spending big bucks on it," said Hanoian Tran Minh Son.

Ed Willis, a British citizen working in Vietnam as a scrum master, also paid the black market price for a ticket.

"My Vietnamese is not that good so I didn’t know how to find a ticket reseller. Fortunately, my Vietnamese friend helped me buy one. It cost me around $140, but this is just slightly more expensive than watching a Premier League game in the U.K.

"I have never watched Vietnam play in the stadium before and I think this will be the right time to do it," Willis said.

The original rule was that each person will get to purchase a maximum of two tickets. Spectators must either be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before the match or have recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months. They must also test negative for the coronavirus at least 72 hours prior, and abide by pandemic prevention measures like keeping a safe distance and wearing masks.

The VFF has also said that it will provide rapid Covid-19 testing for spectators at VND100,000 per test.

"I have only been vaccinated once, but no worries, the second dose is coming soon. I'll be in My Dinh on November 16 when Vietnam play Saudi Arabia, that's for sure," Luan said.

Proud, anyway

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, large gatherings are not allowed. If Vietnam get a win, the fans won't be able to flood the streets and celebrate as they tend to. But that doesn't mean the football fans are less passionate about the games and the team.

"We will still celebrate if Vietnam win, but this time indoors. Honestly, a draw would also make us happy since Japan and Saudi Arabia are the top teams in Asia. Whatever the result is, we are still proud of the team because they have made it this far. Vietnam are the only Southeast Asian team in the final round, so that’s already an achievement," Lam said.

Because of Covid-19, fans will not be able to go out to the streets and support the team like this. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Fans gather on a Hanoi street to cheer for the Vietnamese team ahead of their World Cup qualifiers game with Thailand, November 19, 2019. Because of Covid-19, fans will not be able to go out to the streets and support the team like this. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

To prepare for the games, My Dinh Stadium has been renovated to meet the requirements of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

"I’m looking forward to watching the games at the newly revamped stadium. Hopefully, the players will have the ideal conditions to play and bring the fans a great game," Son said.

"In the last home game when Vietnam played Australia in My Dinh, spectators were not allowed and our team lost 0-1. But this time, with the support of 12,000 fans, I believe Vietnam can make a difference and get a good result. The team need this. It’d be a huge mentality boost for them."

Vietnam have lost their first four matches in the final round of World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia, Australia, China and Oman, conceded 10 goals and scored four. They are at the bottom of group B and still waiting to get the first point.

The team will face Japan on November 11 and Saudi Arabia on the 16th. Both matches will be reported live on VnExpress International.

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