Friday, December 12, 2003

Will all hell break loose if Vietnam lose? (The Malay Mail)

Bull Run Column @ Vietnam Sea Games 2003

THE 22nd SEA Games in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City come to a close tomorrow
evening, but as far as the Vietnamese are concerned, it is tonight which
will determine whether it has been a successful sporting event for them or
Vietnam, hosting the Games for the first time, are all set to finish
tops with their current standing of 106 gold, 66 silver and 72 bronze
medals yesterday, when the final events are held tomorrow morning,
followed by the closing ceremony in the evening.
The hosts had predicted they would finish a close second to Thailand,
and only predicted a 100-gold haul, but everything points to Vietnam
surpassing their target to finish tops.
This will come as no surprise as 11 of the 22 hosts of the Seap/SEA
Games have finished on top in the medals tally. Among them are Malaysia,
who were medal champions two years ago with a total haul of 111-75-85.
However, Malaysia may not achieve their target of 50 gold medals in
Vietnam this time.
But for Vietnam, emerging first in the medals tally could mean nothing
if their soccer team fail to beat Thailand in tonight's final.
I have never seen a nation in this region so passionate about the game.
With their women's soccer team having won the gold last night after
edging Myanmar 2-1, the men would not be forgiven if they fail to repeat
their feat.
From what I have witnessed the last 16 days, both in Ho Chi Minh City
and Hanoi, is that in this soccer-crazy nation, the SEA Games are going to
be judged by whether their soccer team are going to win the final.
There have been wild celebrations into the wee hours of the morning by
the Vietnamese after every game their team have played.
What the scene is going to be after tonight's final whistle is beyond my
wildest imagination. Will all the sweet and seemingly harmless women turn
violent if their team lose? I really do not know.
For the sake of Vietnam, I am praying their team will win because all I
can see is a riot breaking tonight if they lose.
And I would hate to be in the Thai team as what they will have to
undergo after tonight's match.
Team manager Thavat-chai Sajakul has made preparations for meals to be
supplied to his players at the National Main Stadium if they have to spend
the night there after winning the title.
That is how confident the Thais are about the match and knowing them,
they fear nothing and just like the Vietnamese, they are also die-hard
Many Vietnamese are telling me not to fear anything because they are
peace-loving people who will not resort to violence.
"We just love soccer so much and want our team to win," said a volunteer
at the Main Press Centre. "We just want a reason to celebrate."
Yeah, but losing the final will certainly not be a reason to celebrate.
All the smiles and sweet faces could see the fans resorting to violence
in their moment of despair.
I hate to think what Hanoi and the other cities in Vietnam are going to
be like tonight.
Be it celebrations because of the win by Vietnam, or all hell breaking
loose if they lose, it is going to be chaos before the Games flame is put
off tomorrow for the next edition in the Philippines in 2005.
I will be at the stadium to report on the third placing match between
Malaysia and Myanmar and staying back for the final because there is no
way I can leave as not only will a 40,000-capacity crowd be expected,
there will also be several thousand fans milling outside.
I can choose to stay in the MPC and cover the game - to be shown live on
TV - as many have decided to do so but I am not going to miss this
momentous occasion.

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