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I have been told that the most popular football team in Vietnam is Manchester United. But yesterday I found that “MU” have some irrepressible competition. At two o’clock in the afternoon in Hanoi Medical University’s indoor arena, two thousand Arsenal fans from all around the country created a frenzied match-day-like atmosphere even before the team had touched down in Vietnam.
If the stadium had been twice the size, no doubt AFCVN, who say they have 47,000 registered members, would have filled it. It looks as if it will be an emotional evening at Hanoi’s My Dinh stadium on Wednesday, when Arsenal FC become the English Premier League’s first team ever to play here. Arsenal seemed excited too, in London and arriving today in Hanoi.
That is a special way for us to celebrate forty years of Britain and Vietnam’s diplomatic relations, and to encourage more sports links between our two countries. The match comes one year after the famously spectacular London Olympics, and we want to share our experience as Hanoi prepares to host the 2019 Asian Games.
I was happy to award prizes to fifteen winners of our Facebook competition, “Arsenal – the Dream Comes True”. They all got Great Britain shirts – and tickets to the match.
Seeing our competition winners, as well as the winners of “Miss AFCVN”, “Mr AFCVN Talent”, and an AFCVN Football tournament, in fact seeing all two thousand supporters cheering chanting singing and swaying, reminded me while I feel good about Vietnam’s future. There are so many tricky bureaucratic, economic and political challenges. But the happy dynamism of the younger generation shines as brightly in Vietnam as I have seen anywhere.