Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SE Asia XXXX - England United

In Vietnam you are guaranteed to be asked, "Where are you from?". Generally it is part of a triumvirate of questions the other two being, "How old are you?" and, " Are you married?". When I say "Anh" (England) the response is always positive. It seems in Vietnamese eyes (if not South East Asian eyes generally) the defining feature of England is football, or more precisely the Premiership. Lots of Vietnamese do not speak English, or have a limited grasp of English and yet when they discover I am English they want to know if I am from Manchester. In no other country have I been asked if I came from Manchester. Manchester Untied appear to be the unofficial national team of Vietnam. I'm yet to meet a Vietnamese who supports any other team. In Laos the majority of people I spoke to support Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, or as one Monk put it, "I support the Premiership". In Thailand the big four receive a hearty following but Liverpool are the undoubted leaders. In all my travels I am yet to find a South East Asian who supports Tottenham. Although the Vietnamese upon hearing that I support Spurs reply, " Robbie Keane".

When I was in Thailand I had a long chat with a guy from Bangkok on the train to Ayutthaya who lambasted McClaren's decision to drop Beckham. In Kuala Lumpar I was in an unsavoury part of town and saw a street stall with a TV showing highlights of the England vs Croatia qualifying game for Euro 2008. When it was announced that England had failed to qualify there was shock amongst the group. In Trang I was having difficulty explaining to a group of Thais that I was English. We were at a bus stop and the bus stop had a huge Barclays Premier League advert on it, after pointing at that for a while the penny dropped. When I arrived at my guesthouse in Hanoi the manager launched into a match report on the Champions League semi-finals. In Laos whilst doing a trek through the Luang Nam Tha National park I was discussing with one of the guides his support of the Big Four.

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