HO CHI MINH CITY It was an otherwise ordinary Tuesday night in Vietnam's financial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. But on December 11 thousands of people lined streets in the city center until after 1 a.m. to blast airhorns and cruise around in utility trucks packed with football (soccer) fans waving Vietnamese flags. Some even painted the flag, a single yellow star on a red background, on their faces.
A similar scene unfolded Saturday in the capital Hanoi, and for the same reason: in both cases, Vietnam's football team had won ASEAN Football Federation matches. The game Saturday handed Vietnam the top spot in a group of five Southeast Asian countries.
Loud, late-night street partying reveals a new sense of patriotism driven by mass media, communist rule and pride in a country long hobbled by war but starting to emerge.
Now although they're fighting, they're relying on sport to stimulate their sense of nationality, said Tai Wan-ping, Vietnam-specialized international business professor at Cheng Shiu University in Taiwan. It's a hard chance to get, so everyone is satisfied and proud.
Emergence after decades of setbacks
Vietnam is emerging from decades of war, poverty and efforts to jumpstart its economy. The country fought off its French colonists in the 1940s, the United States in the 1970s and, later that decade, the Chinese on their northern border.
Today a once desperately poor population is prospering on foreign investment in factory work, a driver of economic growth of around six percent per year since 2012.
Vietnam is without a doubt one of the most patriotic countries in Southeast Asia, and its citizens are immensely proud of their heritage, said Murray Hiebert, senior associate for the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Perhaps it's because Vietnam is a long, narrow country fronting on the sea that has had to defend itself regularly against foreign invaders for over two millennia, he said.
Source: Voice of America