Vietnam’s streets were transformed into a sea of red on the afternoon of January 27, 2018. Millions of football fans cheered on Vietnam’s U23 team at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) championship match held in Changzhou, China. The team suffered a heartbreaking loss in extra time, but that did not stop the celebrations.
Vietnam’s U23 football team marks the first time Vietnam, or any other country in Southeast Asia, has ever entered an Asian championship game. The team has completely rocked the nation, capturing the hearts of millions of Vietnamese football fans. Cheers reverberated throughout the country when the team defeated Qatar in the semifinals on January 23, ensuring their spot in the championship round.
When the final match against tough opponents Uzbekistan began at 3 pm, Vietnam’s sea of red came to a standstill as motorbikes parked on sidewalks to watch big screens showing the game. Fans crowded bars, restaurants, sidewalks and walking streets, all eager to watch history being made.
Meanwhile, the bitterly cold arena in Changzhou, China was being blanketed by snow, which the Vietnamese team had never played in before. Uzbek defender Rustamjon Ashurmatov scored in the match’s 8th minute, but Vietnamese midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai tied things up with a free kick over 30 minutes later.
After several delays clearing the field of snow, the game remained tied and went into extra time. It was in the 120th minute that Uzbekistan’s striker Andrey Sidorov scored the winning goal, reducing teammates and fans watching in Changzhou to tears.
Yet, no tears were found on the streets of Vietnam.
Vietnamese fans poured back into the streets, jubilantly celebrating the team’s silver medal.
There were smiles all around as fans proudly wore red shirts and flags, the official colour of the Vietnamese U23 team.
Fans donned flags, red and yellow shirts, whistles and makeshift drums.
Vietnam’s U23 team was catapulted to fame as they represented the country for the first time ever at a championship football match.
The post-match celebrations were an unforgettable display of Vietnamese sportsmanship.
In Northern Vietnam, the houses of captain Luong Xuan Truong and goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung were surrounded by cheering fans while the streets were crammed.
Vietnam’s silver medal at the U23 AFC championship round marks one of the best achievements in the history of Southeast Asian football.
It was an incredible experience to be in Vietnam and witness the extraordinary display of sportsmanship and celebration by Vietnamese football fans! Their beloved U23 team members received a hero’s welcome upon returning home and will surely remain a great source of pride for the entire country for years to come.