Vietnamese fans worldwide share euphoria ahead of team’s final versus Uzbekistan

By Anh Ngoc, Hanh Pham   January 26, 2018 | 05:00 am PT
Vietnamese fans worldwide share euphoria ahead of team’s final versus Uzbekistan
Vietnamese players in red during their match versus Iraq at the AFC U23 Championship on January 19. Photo by VnExpress/Van Khoa
From France to Uzbekistan, Vietnamese fans are ready to paint the streets red.

The final of the U23 Asian Cup on Saturday afternoon in China is likely to have Vietnamese fans around the world glued to their screens as their heroes take on Uzbekistan.

Luu Thi Tuoi, who lives in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent, said although she loves her second home, she will be cheering for Vietnam.

The final game for the Asia Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Championship in Changzhou will kick of at 3 p.m. Vietnam time.

The team's march to the final, which has included victories against regional powerhouses Australia, Iraq and Qatar, has earned love and admiration from the Vietnamese people and football fans across the world.

Tuoi, who owns a restaurant that once welcomed the Vietnamese team in 2013, said her shop will be showing the game while she and her sons will watch it at the Vietnamese embassy.

Ambassador Pham Van Phao said the Vietnamese community will be backing their homeland but with a lot of respect for Uzbekistan. “Both teams have won by reaching the final,” he said.

Phao said that Uzbekistan will be a “tough” competitor as the players are both strong and skilfull.

But Tuoi doesn't seem too worried.

Vietnamese people have a strong fighting spirit, she said.

“Apologies to my Uzbek friends but I hope Vietnam will make history and win the cup.”

Spirits are also high in Paris.

Nguyen Hai Nam, who left Vietnam five years ago, had to watch the semifinal against Qatar secretly in class last Tuesday, feeling “extremely excited”.

Vietnam had to come from a goal down twice against Qatar to force extra time, before goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung made a double save in the penalty shootout to send the nation into ecstasy.

Nam himself was a keen footballer and trained in Hanoi around 10 years ago with midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai, now one of the stars of the team.

“I’m so happy to see his success,” he said.

“My friends and I are ready to paint Paris red,” he said.

Red is the official color of the Vietnamese team and streets in Hanoi and Saigon have been covered in red shirts and national flags as fans celebrate their team’s extraordinary run.

Nam said he has bought 50 flags from Vietnam and given them to all the Vietnamese people he knows in Paris for the game this Saturday, which will start at 9 a.m. local time there.

Tram Anh at Paris Diderot University said the event is a “one in a million” and she has prepared to make it “memorable”.

Anh and her Vietnamese schoolmates have prepared three projectors to show the game in a hallway that can hold more than 300 people.

Hoang Phuong, an architect who has been in Paris for more than 10 years, has been following the Vietnamese team's journey closely.

“It’s been a long time since Vietnamese people anywhere in the world have got to experience such euphoria,” Phuong said.

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