Muggles beware! Ho Chi Minh City is about to get schooled in the hottest sport outside Hogwarts Academy.
Harry Potter fans are aware of Quidditch, first seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, with the young wizards zipping around the sky on brooms to ensure school glory. A version on land has ‘taken off’, so to speak, although seeing people running around with brooms can be a bit of an adjustment for the uninitiated.
“It is affiliated with a larger Harry Potter fan organisation called HogwartsVN, of which I’m also the founder,” says Alex Nguyen, who started playing the sport in earnest while attending Ohio State University. “I’m now captain of GiantsQuid (not a misprint: “Yup, that’s GiantsQuid, a word play between Giants Quidditch and Giant Squid,” Alex says).”
Nguyen says Quidditch is growing in popularity in America, but is still a bit of a mystery to Vietnamese locals, which means the route to legitimacy as a sport here is a bit of an uphill battle.
“We have a lot of support and cheer from international friends but general skepticism from Vietnamese fans,” she says.
And even some of our rather cosmopolitan readers might currently be raising eyebrows. Alex shakes her head knowingly. “So anyway, Quidditch might sound like a nerdy joke,” she says. “It was. But now it has become so huge that even people who don’t give a damn about Harry Potter come play.
“And all Harry Potter aside, just think of it as a sport.”
Quidditch HQ is at facebook.com/HogwartsVietnam. Costs are VND20,000 for a one-day pass, and official members can throw down VND300,000 for uniforms
There are three balls. The first is called the Quaffle, which is thrown through hoops at both ends of the field, like a basketball. The second is a dodgeball-esque Bludger, played by throwing it at whoever has the Quaffle; the person who gets hit must drop the Quaffle. Then there’s the Snitch, held by a runner wearing full yellow who can run out of the field. Each team has three Chasers to deal with the Quaffle-holder, two Beaters to deal with the Bludger-tosser, and one Seeker to try and catch the Snitch. A Quaffle through hoops is a 10-point score. Catching the Snitch is 30 points. Once the Snitch is caught, the game ends.
Halftime Events Showcasing Pop Stars in V-League
Many soccer clubs in Vietnam have started to look to pop stars as a source of inspiration for both their players and supporters, according to Tuoi Tre.
The latest team to join the trend is Dong Thap FC, a club headquartered in their namesake province in the Mekong Delta. Vietnamese pop singer Bao Thy recently performed at their Cao Lanh Stadium, when Dong Thap FC challenged Sanna Khanh Hoa in the 2015 Toyota V-League 1, which is the country’s top-flight competition. Dong Thap FC supporters also recently enjoyed a performance by half-Korean singer and actress Hari Won. Hari, born to a South Korean mother and a Vietnamese father, sang two songs and inspired the hosts to beat QNK Quang Nam 3-0, which was apparent encouragement for Dong Thap FC to go on to invite Bao Thy for their next game.
Funny Business for Taekwondo Stars at National Games
Ho Chi Minh City is investigating its heavily-invested Taekwondo team after four of its top athletes played and won gold medals for other provinces at the 2014 National Games, writes Thanh Nien. The team, considered one of the country’s strongest, with many athletes winning medals at international events, surprisingly ranked fifth with only one gold medal at the competition last December. Several team members, however, won gold medals for other provinces, including Nguyen Quoc Minh, who bagged a gold for Binh Phuoc. Other players, Phuoc Dai, Nguyen Bao and Chi Khanh, won another gold for Ca Mau after the Ho Chi Minh City team itself withdrew at the final round of the team category. Phan Nguyen Nhu Khue, director of HCMC Culture and Sports Department, said he has instructed the team to report on accusations that it played for hire and thus in essence “sold” medals at the National Games.
Transsexual Players Ruled Out for Women’s Champs
Transsexual players are not allowed to participate in the National Women’s Football Championship, which will kick off on Mar. 5, according to the Vietnam Football Federation. Thanh Nien reported officials did not say whether there are any players affected by this ban, or how many there are.
The 2015 National Women’s Football Championship-Thai Son Bac Cup will see the competition of one new team, Tao Dan from Ho Chi Minh City, alongside six incumbents. Seven teams will play each other in two legs with the first leg at Ho Chi Minh City’s Thong Nhat Stadium from Mar. 5 to Mar. 26, and the second leg at Ha Nam’s Phu Ly Stadium from Jun. 21 to Jul. 12. The champion will be awarded VND300 million (US$14,050), 1.5 times more than last year. The runner-up will get VND200 million and the third place finisher will receive VND150 million. Organisers also grant other awards, including fair-play team, best goalkeeper, best player, top scorer and best referee team.
New Academies to Open in Vietnam
The NutiFood HAGL Arsenal JMG Academy is scheduled to open in soccer-mad Ho Chi Minh City in June, according to Vietnam News. The training model of this institute will be similar to those in other football institutes of JMG, which is a global sports organisation and training company.
Viettel Sports Centre is also in on the act, and is in the process of setting up a football academy in collaboration with European giant Borussia Dortmund. The military unit is home to young players belonging to different age groups, ranging from U11 to U19. They are mainly coached by former national team players, including captain Nguyen Hong Son, striker Dang Phuong Nam and midfielder Nguyen Hai Bien. The newly-built centre in Hanoi will be used as Viettel FC’s training and accommodation complex in the near future. Viettel expects its club to participate in the national premier V-League 1 in 2018.
Busy Month for U23s
Vietnam’s U23 team is set to play a friendly match against Thailand on Mar. 22 in Bangkok, according to Vietnam News. The team is also set for a clash with Indonesia on Mar. 7 at Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City. The national football squad will then will fly to Kuala Lumpur for a continental event, which will be held from Mar. 27 to Mar. 31.
Swimmer Vien Aiming for Olympic Final
Swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien aims to advance to the top eight at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, according to Vietnam News. Vien officially won her berth at the games after grabbing two Standard As at the Asian Games in South Korea last October.
At the Incheon competitions, Vien bagged two bronze medals in the women’s 400m medley and 200m backstroke events. Vien, who is training in the US, sees her most important duty as winning at the Singapore SEA Games.
Golden Ball Nominees Announced
The list of nominees for the Golden Ball Award 2014, which is organised by the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) newspaper, were announced last month. Players from the national U19 team make up for 10 out of the 11 male nominees for the U21 best player award. Female players will also be honoured. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in mid-March in Ho Chi Minh City.
Athletes Face Tough Climb Ahead in Hanoi
Landmark 72, Vietnam’s tallest building, will once again be the site of Vietnam’s highest stair climbing race, the Hanoi Vertical Run. Participants will have to climb 1,914 steps on Apr. 18 if they want to cross the finish line and enjoy the view at the top of the 350-metre-tall tower. Race organisers Sporting Republic are aiming to attract 500 participants for all categories.