The Gaelic football club: Irish culture right in Hanoi

(VOVworld) - People gather at sport clubs for physical exercise and a team experience. The Gaelic football club of Hanoi attracts people with a passion for a unique sport from Ireland, Gaelic football.

The Gaelic football club was founded eight years ago by some Irish expats in Hanoi. It has a men’s team called the VietCelts and a ladies’ team called the DuraCelts. Every Thursday evening, the players meet at a field near Au Co Street, in West Hanoi. From a handful of Irish founders, the club has grown to include members from several different countries. Siobhan Kiernan, the coach of the female team, said:

We’ve got some Irish, obviously, because we’re an Irish football team. There’s an Australian, we’ve got some Vietnamese girls, Canadian, American, Scottish, English, every nationality all over the world. Well members change all the time because, in Hanoi, there’s lots of expats come and go. Regularly we have may be 15 members at a time.

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The Ladies Team Duracelts. (Photo: vietcelts.com)

Gaelic football is a dynamic game, where players can use their hands and feet to kick, or punch, the ball. Briefly, it combines the tackling of rugby, the kicking of soccer, and the handling of volleyball. And as in basketball, players travel by bouncing the ball, which they can do one time. What makes Gaelic football unique is the option of using either hands or feet to control the ball and score.

In a game, players are running continuously. They have to tackle opponents to get the ball and then try to bring the ball to the other team’s goalpost. For Vietnamese players, endurance and tackling ability are often their shortcomings when playing Gaelic football. But they have other assets that make them valuable players on the team. James Lalry, the current director of the club, said:

I think they’re also top players. They are more than able to play. They have the skills. They have the speed. They have good determination. And the strength, may be they’re not as strong sometimes, but they make up for it like, having speed, and having determination, good attitude toward the game, so it’s important. And they’re open-minded to learn a new sport.

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The club members doing warm-up exercises. (Photo: VOV5)

New members need to spend at least one month learning the rules of the sport, and training their body to be able to play a full-length match. After two months, newcomers can play along with the veterans. The effort they make repays them with a healthy body, stamina, and agility, and a chance to learn about a different culture. Bùi Thị Yến, who has been practicing for 3 years, said:

[I’ve learned] a lot about Irish culture. Irish are open-minded and sociable. I haven’t been to Ireland, but they told me a lot about their homeland. They also share stories of life in Ireland. Sometimes there’s an Irish music festival or cultural festival and we go together to learn more about Ireland. Listening to Irish accent helps improve my language skills.

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Players have to run continuously, tackle opponents to get the ball, and then try to bring the ball to the other team’s goalpost. (Photo: VOV5)

Although the players are non-professional, practicing the sport is not just about fun and physical exercises. It’s also about competition. There are Gaelic football clubs in other provinces and cities. They compete with each other in an annual tournament in Danang. The winner attends the Asian games to compete against teams from Korea, China, Singapore, and Malaysia. Many extra-curricular activities are also organized for team members, including fundraising, festivals, and cultural exchange programs. Siobhan told us about an upcoming event:

Our next tournament is in Bangkok in May, so we’re going there for the fourteenth and fifteenth in May. We’ll be sending the ladies’ team and men’s team. And other than that we’ll do fundraising, as well. Because sometimes we’d like to try and raise money for the club or try to get some of our local players to bring them away on trips, like a tournament. We try to raise money to go and get as many people as we can.

The Gaelic football club offers healthy exercise, great fun and an opportunity to learn more about Irish culture. 

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