Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Oh man

I had a student a few terms ago who, while most students would utter the inevitable troi oi when things went awry, just sighed resignedly and said: “Oh man.”

That’s how I felt after just watching the Asean Football Championship match between Vietnam and Thailand from the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi tonight. The first few minutes were bloody brilliant, the flares were burning bright leaving a red, misty glow over the grand stand, the stadium was rocking and even the commentators said they could hardly hear themselves speak. Tickets were sold out within half an hour of going on sales, fans queuing from five am the morning they went on sale and I thought; “Right, here we go, this is it.”

Bam bam, the opening skirmishes were intense, up and down the field. A few opportunities slipped through both teams hands…erm…feet. I was hopeful. It was truly frenetic football, reminiscent of South Africa’s Premier Soccer League - less skill then heart, but really entertaining stuff. Then Thailand scored on 28 minutes and my hopes faded with the waning enthusiasm of the 40 000-strong crowd. The first “oh man” of many rolled off my tongue.

Midfielder Minh Phuong took a great freekick towards the end of the half, but the drama-queen of a Thai keeper saved brilliantly to his right (only to roll around on the ground like epileptic headless chicken auditioning for a part in the D-Day scene from Shaving Ryan’s Privates for the first of many times). Vietnam even managed to win a contentious penalty but striker Phan Thanh Binh squeezed it past the right post. “Oh man” number three. Young Vietnamese footy superstar Le Cong Vinh, who’s like the sporting equivalent of Dan or Lam Truong, did show some moments of raw talent, African shibobo style, but just couldn’t finish the clear cut chance he got (he’d be right in any South African PSL team).

The second half started better, applying more intense pressure, but the Thai backline was made of kryptonite or something because the balls just bounced off them. Admittedly, Vietnam should have exploited the wings more, which was where my man of the match Bao Khanh and Cong Vinh were running their stinky red socks off, instead of playing up the centre channels the whole time, just to be blocked by the Thai Lex Luthoresque quartet. Thailand capitalised on a defending blunder and scored another goal half way through the second half. "Oh man" number six.

Towards the end the passes were just half-hearted, long balls played up to the two strikers, and the Thais easily regained possession, playing much more of a technical game. Vietnamese goalie Quang Huy was atrocious, his lack of skill matching the Thai goalie's aesthetically dramatic acting/time wasting ploys, which saw his astonishing, yet amusing headless-chicken-rolling-meets-the-tapdancing-frog-in-a-blender-slash-dying-drill-seargeant antics bordering on a full ten minutes.

I really feel for these guys - players and fans alike - after all, this is country is like my second home, but seriously, performances like this are going to keep Vietnam in 134th in the world, just above South Africa and Myanmar’s third team. They have the skill and talent, but it needs to be channelled and tapped in the right direction; the gung ho mentality needs to be balanced with some level-headedness and control. Oh man, good luck for the away leg in Bangkok this weekend.


mullet said...

oi, gutted. At least Vietnam won 6 "oh man"s to none. Heres a story to cheeer you up a bit:
A Boca Juniors fan who went to get a club badge tattooed on his back and came away with a penis tattooed on it instead. How come? The guy who did it was a River Plate fan, as a police spokesman revealed: "The tattooist supports Boca Junior's rival, River Plate, so he got annoyed when the teenager asked him to tattoo Boca's symbol and decided to tattoo a penis instead." Haha, unlucky.

xoxo said...

Ahahahah... tell me about it!!! My house is actually 4 mins from My Dinh so I saw w/ my own eyes excited fans coming to the game and dejected fans leaving... God I was pissed... who misses a penalty? Unbelievable, really. Hope all's well in Sai Gon!