A decade ago, OutKast’s Hey Ya! was blasting out at bars throughout the continent, the last old-style Volkswagen Beetle was produced and China sent its first man into space. And some zany expats started playing a little game called Australian Rules Football.
A decade on and the Vietnam Swans, the nation’s representative in the newly formed EAAFL (East Asia Australian Football League), are heading to Vung Tau at the end of April to take on the Jakarta Bintangs in a game with significance both on and off the field at the 4th Annual ANZAC Friendship Match. Tied in with a chance to climb the ladder in the region’s footy ranks, the Swannies are looking to defend their home turf while celebrating their 10th year in Vietnam.
The formation of the EAAFL provides a lot more structure to an active-yet-inconsistent footy scene in the region. The league calls for a set number of matches between member clubs in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Laos.
“In those first few years, it always felt like the club could fold,” says Vietnam Swans national president Phil Johns. “(Now) footy is alive and well and prospering in Vietnam and the Asian region.”
The Big Game
As national president, and a proud Melbourne native, Johns is particularly keen on this year’s ANZAC match with so much happening with the club. The match also recognizes ANZAC Day with ceremonies to reflect on Australia’s involvement in the First World War, with numerous dignitaries and veterans in attendance.
“All players will wear two black armbands in honour of all people who have died in all wars,” Johns says. “It’s a recognition that the pain and sorrow associated with war continues long after their end. We then want to use the energy in a positive, constructive way.”
The club does this by raising awareness and funds to support the work being done by the Vung Tau Orphanage and Swim Vietnam, two of its signature charities.
“It’s a game of tradition,” says Brett Jotta, a participant who hails from Fremantle, Australia. “It’s a game we play for a cause.”
And all signs point to another decade of memorable match-ups to come.
The Swans and Bintangs square off on Apr. 27. A match will also be played between the Swans reserves and a Legends squad. Both contests take place at the Vung Tau Dog Track in Vung Tau. Click on vietnamswans.com for more info
“If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball.” — Patches O’Houlihan
This gem of wisdom from Rip Torn’s character in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story speaks volumes. After a day weaving between ambulances, trucks and heavily-laden motorbikes, a couple of hours of dodgeball should be a walk in the park. Right?
Not so fast. From the word ‘go’, players dash to the center line and grab balls like they’re going out of style. Suddenly, you take one off the face. Off to the sideline you go, waiting for someone on your team to make a diving catch and resurrect your playing career. It’s cutthroat, fast, vaguely absurd and quickly growing in popularity in Ho Chi Minh City for expats and locals alike.
And now they’re hosting a tournament.
Take Heed, All Ye Heathens
Saigon Dodgeball is gearing up for their 2013 tournament, and the group’s head honcho Daren Cheng is extra pumped for this year’s edition.
“It’s time to wake the sleeping dragon,” Cheng delivers in an apocalyptic movie trailer voice. “In 2013, dodgeball teams are out for vengeance. Who will be crowned this year’s Kings and Queens of the court?”
In all (well, some) seriousness, Saigon Dodgeball is a fun way to let off some steam. Typically playing Mondays and Wednesdays at 8.30pm on the basketball courts at Phan Dinh Phung Sports Complex (75 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3) it attracts a mixed bag of local professionals, English teachers and travellers passing through. Many friendships are forged over beers enjoyed postgame.
But avid local dodgeballer Tina Nguyen says tournaments in years past elevate the fun to another level.
“You don’t have to be good at it, the most important thing is you have some fun, that’s what I think,” says Tina, who has met many close friends through the game. “To be honest I suck at dodgeball, and I’m probably one of the people who gets hit the most, but who cares?”
So think you’re ready for the challenge? If so, remember Patches O’Houlihan’s five D’s for dodgeball domination: “Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge!”
The big one’s coming up on June 8! Registrations are individual, and players will be separated by skill level and then randomly distributed into teams. VND200,000 includes entry fee, court fees, entertainment, prizes, water and more. All proceeds go to charity. Click on saigondodgeball.org for more info
Terms to Remember
A live ball is a dodgeball that has been thrown from the opposing team that has not touched the ground or another player. If you’re hit with a live ball, you’re out.
10 second rule
Players can only hold the dodgeball for 10 seconds so as to reduce game delay and maintain the pace of the game. It also reduces the unfair hoarding of dodgeballs.
Eliminated players and bystanders are not allowed to interfere with balls in play. You can get pelted with dodgeballs by both sides for this.