Contributed by: Aaron Richard
The Hanoi Swans are Vietnam's oldest continuous footy club, regularly playing around the Asian region, with an on-again-off-again presence in the southern city of Saigon. While primarily an Australian-expat based club, the Hanoi Swans are forging links with the Elgar Park Dragons, Melbourne's first Vietnamese community-based footy side, and starting AusKick at the United Nations International School in Hanoi.
In addition to developments in Vietnam, a new club is under formation in neighbouring Laos, to be nicknamed "the Elephants".
Phil Johns from the Swans explains, "I caught up with Simon from Box Hill North when I was last in Australia. They're the ones who have fired up the Elgar Park Dragons. It's early days yet but Box Hill North play in the Narita Cup, Simon is an ex-president of the Tokyo Goannas, with a number of the Vietnamese guys. They are hoping to stop off in Vietnam on the way to Tokyo for a match and to visit the orphanage that we're involved with. There is also an invitation for any Swan to join Box Hill to play in the Narita Cup."
"We've also talked about forming sister clubs - especially as Hanoi has now got Saigon up and running to form the Vietnam Swans - most of those Vietnamese Aussies will have come from Saigon originally. From next year, we are hoping to play our first ever "Friendship" match in February on the anniversary of the setting up of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Australia. Rather than doing something on Vietnam Veterans Day which is a minefield of sensitivities, if we do it on the anniversary of the "new beginning", it would bring attention to it. If we could get one or two Vietnamese Aussies to play in it, symbolically that could be quite powerful. Perhaps in 5 - 10 years time, a whole team could come over. Anyway, it's a start."
"The Hanoi Swans already do an Auskick program at the UN International School in Hanoi - but that's still very small at the moment. We were going to have an Australian Youth Ambassador but that seems to have gone quiet. We did set up stalls last month in both Hanoi and Saigon for Austrade's Australian Schools Open day which got a lot of exposure. We have also just started speaking with Josh Vanderloo, the AFL Auskick and International Coordinator, so we'll see what happens there".
The Swans have now set up a blog at www.hanoiswans.wordpress.com to keep people informed. Asia has often been an area where clubs are very strong and have a vibrant social scene, but tend to be composed mainly of Australians and other westerners. Japan and more recently China and Indonesia were the first ones to break that trend, but Vietnam could join them as the next place we see footies being kicked competitively by locals in Asia.
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