Travel & Life - July 14, 2018 | 03:00 am PT

Foreign fans imbibe World Cup spirit in Hanoi

In football crazy Vietnam, people from all over the world have bonded in an embrace of great gaiety. 

World Cup excitement has electrified street stalls, cafés, beer parlors and bars in Vietnam's capital city.

VnExpress International went bar-hopping during the quarterfinal and semifinal matches in the Old Quarter, a popular watering hole for both locals and expats, and it was a carnival, all the way.

On the famous Ta Hien Street, it seemed that an endless train of cheering, drinking and screaming was in progress.

Participating in it were Anna, Mathilda and Marie, three young women from France in the country for a voluntary program. They were in high spirits, confident that France would win the World Cup.

From left: Anna, Mathilda and Marie from France.

“Tonight feels like a festival. The atmosphere here is so amazing, that’s why we have been coming here for every single France match this World Cup. C’est parfait (it’s perfect).

“My favorite player? Definitely Hugo Lloris, what a beautiful man. Anna’s favorite is Antoine Griezmann,” Marie said.

Right next to the three French girls were four guys from Spain. Jorge, Pepe, Javier and German had been traveling in Vietnam for a few weeks. Since Spain got eliminated early, they were rooting for Brazil against Belgium.”

From left: Jorge, Pepe, Javier and German.

“I’m surprised by the love Vietnamese people have for football. This street has turned into a small football stadium tonight. We are having such a great time in Vietnam so far,” Pepe said.

Sadly, Brazil didn’t make it to the semifinals.

A few days later, I was in Ta Hien again for the semifinal match that everyone had been waiting, between France and Belgium.

Since it was Wednesday, the police weren't letting people sit outside, so the weekend frenzy on the streets was absent.

There was no paucity of passion though, as people waited for the match to begin at 1 a.m. 

Outside the “empty” street, I met four foreigners. Seeing the blue, white and red flag painted on their faces, I assumed they were French citizens come to cheer France.

I was wrong.

Four fans from Uruguay who root for France to win the World Cup.

“We are actually from Uruguay. But after France beat our national football team with such a great performance, we were very impressed and hope that France will win the World Cup.”

“The football atmosphere in Vietnam is so similar to that in Uruguay. We are crazy about football. Every time Uruguay wins a match, we will bring our horns and drums to the street to celebrate, just like Vietnamese did when you guys got into the final of Asia U23 championship,” one of them said.

I checked my watch. Five minutes to go for game time. As I looked for a place, I heard loud screams emanating from a pub. This one looked like a colorful football kingdom, with French fans on one side and Belgian fans on another, and a big screen. I was definitely going in here.

The game was so intense that everyone held their breath for the first 20 minutes. A Belgium supporter jumped up and put his hands behind his head in despair as Eden Hazard missed a chance to score.

A Belgium fan holds his head in rue while watching the game between Belgium and France.

Screams of joy erupted as Samuel Umtiti scored the opener for France. The Belgian fans were disappointed, of course.

Fans react while watching the game between France and Belgium.

When the game is over, sadness started showing on the face of Belgian fans. They are speechless, because their team was playing great against France.

The tension is real.
After the match, I met Marc, Thuy Vy and Franz, all of them wearing France jerseys. They are all big supporters of France, and the passion for football brought two French and a Vietnamese fan together in an unforgettable night.
From left: Marc, Thuy Vy and Franz.

“France will definitely get that cup, it’s now or never! What a night! This place looks like Paris when France won the World Cup in 1998. It’s just simply amazing!” Franz said, holding the France flag high.

He made another confident prediction: “It will be another sleepless night in Hanoi.”

Story and photos by Tuan Hoang