đá cầu is not an olympic sport

Vietnam don’t seem to care about the Olympics. It received so little attention here that I didn’t even realise the games had started until I happened to be reading the Australian news and realised that day one had already passed me by. I flicked through all my TV channels in my apartment and found to my disappointment that I did not have any channel airing the games. If any of the local channels such as SCTV do carry it, then it must be part time at best, because I have yet to see it on any of the 80 odd channels I have.

It wasn’t advertised in the street either. There are various sports bars and popular pubs near me that normally proudly advertise their sporting telecasts on signs outside, inviting people to come in and watch the events on a big screen. But I saw nothing for the Olympics. I almost started to get the feeling the Olympics were banned here or something, so I went online to find out.

It turns out Vietnam are competing in the Olympics, but out of 100 million people, only managed to raise 18 competitors in some sports where they really didn’t have much of a chance anyway in my opinion such as weightlifting and wrestling and rowing. They couldn’t even raise a soccer team or any other sport I thought they would be good at, with the exception of maybe taekwondo in which they have two competitors, and in fencing and badminton a mere competitor each.

I saw a great documentary on South Korea, trying very hard to win at the games with the help of sports science to help their atheletes compete better. And with China blitzing the games with their forced sporting slave camps, basically buying their way to victory by enslaving children and forcing them to train until they were almost dead in order to win gold for their country, Vietnam’s near absence from the games is in stark contrast.

They have two hopefuls this year, with Da Nang weightlifter Tran Le Quoc Toan recently ranked third in the world, and Taekwondo star Le Huynh Chau also winning a medal at a recent tournament, but Vietnam’s Olympic history is grim, having won a mere two silver medals in it’s 60 years of Olympic participation.

If only đá cầu, known more commonly as Jianzi, or “Chinese hackeysack” was an Olympic sport. First demonstrated at the summer Olympics in 1936, it features at the Asian Games, but has never been included as an Olympic sport, despite being hugely popular in China and is Vietnam’s national sport. The game involves a small feathered shuttlecock which participants must keep airbourne using any part of their body except their hands, and is normally played in a circle for entertainment, or one on one for more competitive matches.

The game of đá cầu is an institution in Vietnam, and you will see teenagers and adults playing it in the parks of Saigon or Hanoi every night. It is a very active and lively game, requiring a great deal of energy, but very easy to learn and get into, with many British people enjoying it for its similar skills needed to trick soccer games.

But Vietnam does not have the intense focus on foreign sport that China does, and does not feel such a strong desire to show its prowess by forcing children to enter training camps for years, resulting in a mere 18 athletes from this very populated country going to London this year.

It’s a shame to not have more local competitors to cheer on, and sadly ater checking, I realised that I missed Tran Le Quoc Toan’s weightlifting performance three days ago and he did not place, but who knows, if they add golf in 2016, maybe they will add jianzi in 2020 and Vietnam can finally be top of the world at an Olympic sport.

Vietnamese athletes in London, 2012

Tran Le Quoc Toan in training for this year’s Olympics

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