Hanoi (AFP) – Vietnam’s Under 23 football squad got a rapturous welcome home Sunday from thousands of fans lining the streets of the capital, even though they fell short of a championship win.
The underdogs became overnight celebrities in the football-crazy nation when they reached the finals of the Under 23 Asian Football Confederation tournament in China on Saturday.
Undeterred by their 2-1 loss to Uzbekistan, crowds massed to catch a glimpse of the players, who were expected to meet Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc later.
“I wanted my children to learn from the wonderful strong will of those young footballers,” said Tran Thuy An, who had been waiting for hours on a flyover for the team bus to pass by.
Surrounded by fans and well-wishers who shrugged off light rain, the double-decker took five hours to reach the city centre from the airport, a journey which normally takes 40 minutes.
“This amazing parade has never happened in Vietnam,” said state-run Vietnam Television in an hours-long live broadcast, commenting on the sea of red and gold in the city.
Vietnam defied the odds to reach the final, blowing past regional heavyweights Iraq and Qatar.
Observers praised the way the team united the country. “There have never been that many national flags in Hanoi in decades,” said 77-year-old resident Ha Anh Tue.
Tue compared the outpouring to the liberation from the French in 1954 and reunification after the Vietnam war ended in 1975.
“U23 made history for Vietnam’s sports,” Tue told AFP.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Euro glory would make Liverpool the best ever: McManaman
- Liverpool’s Salah eyes Champions League revenge against Real
- Claims stemming from Australia football probe referred to police
- Liverpool eye revenge against Real Madrid in Champions League final rematch
- Chile name Argentine Berizzo as new coach after World Cup qualification failure
- Canada Soccer cancels Iran football friendly: statement
- Paris readies for Liverpool fan invasion
- How to watch Champions League Final for free without cable
- Aston Villa to sign Sevilla defender Diego Carlos
- RB Salzburg midfielder Aaronson joins Leeds