16 December 2009

History: Early days of Vietnamese football

Football came into Vietnam with the French in 1896. It was first introduced in South Vietnam, and then spread to other parts of the colony - the central and northern parts.

The first people who played football in Saigon were French civil servants, merchants and soldiers; some Vietnamese then picked it up. A club called Cercle Sportif Saigonnais (Saigon Sports Circle) was founded and the games were played at the city park, called Jardin de la Ville (today Tao Đàn Park).

In 1905, a British warship named after King Alfred visited Saigon and its football team had a friendly match against a local team composed of Vietnamese and French players. This was considered as the first international football match in Vietnam.

E. Breton, a member of France's L'Union des Sociétés Français des Sports Athlétiques brought football rules into Vietnam in 1906, and as a chairman of Cercle Sportif Saigonnais, he reorganized the club similar to football clubs in France. Some other clubs started to appear, such as Infanterie, Saigon Sport, Athletic Club, Stade Militaire, Tabert Club. Local cups were soon held afterwards. As a well-trained team, Cercle Sportif Saigonnais won for many times, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1916.

Some Vietnamese learned the game's regulations and established their own teams. The first two Vietnamese teams founded in 1907 were Gia Định Sport run by Ba Vẻ and Phú Khai and Ngôi Sao Xanh (Blue Star) run by Nguyễn Đình Trị. These two teams then came together to form "Ngôi sao Gia Định" (Gia Định Star). Prior to 1920, it had defeated all other teams, including Cercle Sportif Saigonnais (in 1917), and became the champion.

Other teams include: Victoria Sportive, Commerce Sport, Jean Compte, Sport Cholonaise, Khánh Hội Sport, Tân Định Sport, Gò Vấp, Hiệp Hòa, Chợ Quán, Phú Nhuận, Đồng Nai, Enfants de Troupe; in other provinces: Thủ Dầu Một, Cần Thơ, Sóc Trăng, Sa Đéc, Gò Công, Châu Đốc, Mỹ Tho. New grounds were developed, namely Citadelle, Renault (in front of current Thống Nhất Stadium), Fourière, Mayer and Marine.

Football came to the North of Vietnam in about 1906–1907. Some local press told about matches played by Legion Đáp Cầu and Olympique Hải Phòng in 1909. On the first match, Olympique won by 2-1, but they failed by 8-1 next time. In February 1912, Hanoi Football club (Stade Hanoien) was founded. The team was composed of Vietnamese and French players. More and more Vietnamese football clubs were established such as Racing Club, Eclaire, Usaga, Septo, Cotonkin, ASNA Vinh, Sept Hue, Touranne, Faifo Cheminot Nha Trang, Le Semeur, Universite...

Some old articles said that in 1930s when South China (Hong Kong) could beat any Vietnamese football teams easily, their famous striker Ly Hue Duong (Vietnamese version of a Chinese name) made an arrogant comment: "Annamese (Vietnamese) football is like a frog in the well". His comment undoubtedly made Vietnamese players angry. Some years later, South China was unable to beat Vietnamese teams any more. Some results:

In 1937, South China drew 4-4 with United Auto Hall Police (Vietnam) at Tao Dan Stadium.

In 1938, South China lost 1-2 to South Vietnam in Saigon. In May of 1938, South Vietnam traveled to Hong Kong, drawing 1-1 with South China before beating Hong Kong 4-0, winning 6-2 against England Navy, winning 3-0 vs England Army. South Vietnam then visited Philippines where they defeated Letran 4-0 and Le Salle (Philippines champion) 3-0.

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