23 January 2010

Glorious time of local football

Navibank Cup 2010 semi-final between Navibank Saigon and Ho Chi Minh FC was the first 'derby' between two Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) sides. Nevertheless if you had been in Thong Nhat stadium at that time, you would have found that the atmosphere was even worse than what you often see in a student football match. The stands were nearly empty while the fans didn't seem much interested in the match.

Ho Chi Minh City (or Sai Gon) was once a center of Vietnamese football about more than 10 years ago. There were 3 clubs in Sai Gon at that time: Cong An TPHCM (HCMC Police), Cang Sai Gon (Saigon Port) and Hai Quan. All of them were strong clubs in Vietnam. Thong Nhat stadium was always flooded with fans in every derby match. But it's what happened in the past. Since the birth of V-League, these clubs have disappeared one by one and so have their fans.

Take Cong An Ho Chi Minh as an example. Due to financial difficulties, Cong An TPHCM was given to Dong A bank in 2002 and the club was renamed to Dong A Bank. However, the club just went down and down. A few years later, it was taken over by Vinakansai Corporation and the whole club was moved to its new base in Ninh Binh Province.

Back to present, 2 HCMC clubs are quite new and strange to local fans. HCMC FC was formerly known as Cang Sai Gon. Its old name as well as its tradition has just gone since last year. The hopeless club is now a weak side with bleak future. Fans are very disappointed with its state at the moment but they can do nothing. Meanwhile Navibank Saigon was a brand new club in HCMC. Its former name is Quan Khu 4, a club used to be based in Vinh City. The team is ambitious and financially well-supported but it was still too early for local fans to regard it as a HCMC side.

The same stories also happened in Ha Noi with the disappearance of The Cong and Cong An Ha Noi. Time of tradition and local pride has gone. It was sad when a friend living in HCMC told me that every time he wanted to watch a football match, he had to travel to Go Dau Stadium in neighboring Binh Duong city.

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