Da Nang 2 Quang Nam 2

SHB Đà Nẵng 2 Quảng Nam 2 (7th March 2019)

Two years ago I made my first visit to Da Nang, arriving with my luggage still in Hanoi, and finding out to my disappointment that the Da Nang match I’d gone to see at the stadium a handy 10 minute walk from my hotel, was actually being played about 5 miles away. I’d found solace that evening in Bamboo 2 Bar by the riverfront, which perked me up no end, being the kind of bar that has random stuff on the walls and ceiling, making it hipster kryptonite, and playing music I can recognise and enjoy, rather than ear-damaging clubby stuff that I can’t even categorise. Friendly bar staff (not that friendly – it’s Vietnam, not Thailand) helped too.

Two years later, I’m on my third trip to Da Nang, and I’ve obviously found solace in Bamboo 2 Bar often enough that the manager wandered over and said “Ah, you’ve come back. Have you lost weight?” One of the waitresses came over, almost annoyed I’d not said hello earlier – and this was someone who wasn’t even working during my prior visit, so she was remembering me from two years ago. She was a pleasantly perky young woman, and for some reason I can recall giving her a plastic £5 note, which made her dance a little jig of joy.

Also, on this trip, I found out that by sheer luck, Da Nang would have a home fixture during this visit too. It may have been five miles away across town, but this time I wasn’t going to miss out, getting a taxi to take me to the game. The driver did suggest waiting for me until after the game, but I gambled on being able to find a taxi back, somehow.

I exited the taxi at a classic edge of town stadium, in a part of the world where towns’ edges are rather more abrupt that in England. No landscaping here. From certain angles, the stadium did just look like it had been plonked down in scrubby countryside. A few food and drink sellers littered a busy crossroads that marked the stadium entrance, and I was immediately approached by a woman offering to sell me one of her wodge of tickets. She wanted 40,000 dong (about £1.30) for a main stand ticket, but said I should pay 50,000 for it. Whether this was a blatant foreigner mark-up, or just some kind of standard commission for not having to make the effort to walk 20 yards to some other women selling tickets from plastic tables, I don’t know, but for such a small price, it didn’t seem worth the effort to argue.

A short walk allowed me to see the main stand from a front angle, and also hear a lot of instructions barked in machine-gun Vietnamese to people parking motorbikes, but I realised I might as well go in.

The main stand was impressively modern, with a plaza in front of the steps that led to the entrances. This impressive frontage, however, faced precisely nobody, with nearly a km of scrubland between it and the next buildings in its path. Just off the plaza was a large tree, where several male fans used its trunk to relieve themselves against, with the stand’s toilets clearly too far away.

I’d bought a bottle of water outside, but it seemed bottles were banned in the stadium. I was deciding whether to neck it or bin it, when the steward showed me the Vietnamese solution instead. My water was put into a plastic bag, a straw shoved it, and the bag tied at the top. It’s a good solution, but it did leave me walking round with a clear water filled bag, looking like the goldfish I’d won at a funfair had escaped.

The stadium itself looked surprising like a copy of their old ground, albeit with the cheap seats closer to the touchline. One bonus of the new place though was the view of the Marble Mountains, beyond the stand opposite, like a mini Ha Long Bay stranded inland.

One end of the ground was designated the away end, with a smattering of a few hundred fans in dark blue, who’d made the 40 mile trip up from Quang Nam, to the south. If kick-off for this midweek fixture had been later than 5 pm it might have helped get more in, but even so, a decent crowd were getting ready for the game.

Da Nang’s support was “interesting” to say the least. Not much in the way of chanting, but an energetic band played away through much of the game. Many clubs have a band, but the Da Nang band playing a variety of “rousing” tunes, with their distinctive sound being sort of “rejected ITV sports show themes from the 1970s, played in the style of the theme to Van Der Valk”. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just different.

Either way, it seemed to do the trick early on. A cross from the left was spilled by the Quang Nam keeper, right onto the foot of a Da Nang forward, who could hardly miss from a yard out.

Quang Nam got their moment of good fortune a short while later though, with a free kick going in after deflecting off the wall. With both team’s defences looking as gloriously incapable as in Nha Trang a couple of days earlier, and with it being 1-1 after 10 minutes, another goal feast looked on the cards.

Unfortunately the talent in both teams’ attack went on strike in sympathy with the defences after that, and I began to wonder if I’d see another goal. The best chance fell to Da Nang not long after the break. A cross couldn’t be cleared, and the loose ball was smashed towards goal with power. Sadly, this power wasn’t matched by accuracy, and it fired back off the crossbar, to safety.

As the sky darkened, Quang Nam did get a goal that looked to be the winner. A cross flicked up after hitting the fullback, and as the high ball dropped it was headed towards goal from about 12 yards out, and beat the keeper who really ought to have done better.

The away fans lit their fireworks, and ran about the terraces carrying Quang Nam flags, confident of victory, as the seconds ticked down. In the fifth minute of five added minutes, with the home fans streaming out, one last deep cross was curled in, and from the edge of the area this was headed towards goal. It was a perfect header, aided maybe by another bit of less than convincing goalkeeping, and it found the corner of the net to give Da Nang a point. Da Nang fireworks now, and some more 1970s ITV sports show tunes (probably) belted out by the band, as the home fans celebrated as if they’d won.

My victory was not only getting to a Da Nang game at last, but also managing to see that late goal go in through the people filing down the steps past my seat. Now, all I had to do, among the blaring horns and fans singing away in the back of pick-ups, was find a taxi. Job done, and Bamboo Bar awaited, again.

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