The Bog of Binh Duong
As if we were being spat on by a thousand Covid patients, we scrambled inside. Clambering to quell the onslaught, the bar staff employed their most effective wind shield. The grating was a truly impressive marvel of engineering, designed to protect patrons from the unpredictable tropic surges of Vietnam. We weren’t to know it then but, later that day, we would ourselves be wishing, ‘If only Dannie Vo could be this successful at blocking unwanted projectiles’.
The bus was raucous. Filled with testosterone pumped plump men, so eager to embrace their camaraderie through song they insisted on playing multiple speakers in dissonant harmony. The variety of artistic taste was on show with at least four different Arctic Monkeys Albums being represented. Upon arriving, a raw northern hunger for undiluted football savagery was pulsating through the team. It is hard to know whether it was the music or just JD’s discussing of his chivalrous ‘are we gonna f*** or what’ chat up lines for use on Tinder dates.
With over 20 in the squad turning up to play, the team was in no shortage of enthusiasm, apart from when it came to warming up… And cooling down… And sometimes on the pitch… To be honest, the enthusiasm is most pronounced when selecting ‘attending’ on SportEasy but make no mistake, when pushing that button, enthusiasm is oozing from the Vikings.
During the first 20 minutes it looked to be an undecided match. The pitch was deteriorating slowly and MOTM Toby had successfully slid a greater distance across the pitch than he had run. As we progressed, the opponents were knocking on our door with long shots and crosses from wide. Their first goal seemed almost accidental with Dannie Vo trying to have a dance off with the ball before catching it shortly past the goal line.
At this point, the Vikings were unconvinced that they would be beaten, cursing the skies and lamenting Guido’s fragile eyes. A second goal against us was in short order, this time more menacing. A slight trepidation set in. Suddenly, they looked like they had found their feet. Attempting to draw their press, we allowed the midfield to hold the ball and distribute like James ‘did you know I work for Adidas?’ Mengad distributes his phone number to reluctant 40 year olds. From there, the opposing team were able to deliver passes that floated across to their runners deep into the Vikings half. Whilst Scotty’s legs were moving at over 9000 rpm, his top speed still maxed out at around 5Mph and their overhead balls proved too much for him despite his best efforts. At the end of the day, their attacking players often won the ball because they were faster and able to maneuver accordingly.
Eric, having seen Dannie Vo’s catastrophic dance moves, decided to pirouette past opposing players prancing til a foul was deemed necessary to halt his approach. Eric, decided that diplomatic means were required. He picked up the ball and convinced the referee with his words that a penalty was deserved. We were surprised to say the least as neither the ref nor Eric had any common language skills through which to communicate. Instead, they spoke at each other whilst Eric kept the ball slightly out of reach.
Glen stepped up calmly without acknowledging the ferocious clamor of the audience or MOTM Toby still sliding but this time towards the referee. From the stadium you could hear Vietnamese spectators faintly jeering ‘bạn muốn ăn gì cho bữa tối tối nay Ngyuen?’, ‘khi nào các loại bia đến Son?’, ‘phát ban này trông kỳ lạ với bạn?’. None of us knew what they were saying but we knew what they meant. Their words were meant to plunge a piercing shiver deep into our bones; overwhelming and all consuming. But Glen brushed off their battle cries like Magnus brushes left on every Tinder profile he sees; with great ease and explicit intent (but without the desperate hopefulness). Of course, Glen buried it.
With MOTM Toby still successfully sliding in the background, glimmers of hope were there but the team could not find their rhythm. Magnus had flown in a successful cross to Ed’s head and it was dropped at Tippy’s feet just outside the 6 yard box but Tippy was more interested in a conversion point than a goal. Half time had come.
3-1 down, Jonas gave a motivational speech. “Du gehst mir auf den Keks”, “Ich glaub ich spinne”, “boah man ey, ihr Affen”. Of course he was right but our second half was hardly helped. At the beginning of the second half as MOTM Toby dismantled players by sliding at them, other players pressed and disabled their midfield. Suddenly, they looked vulnerable and unable to play the game they intended to. If the Vikings want to have any success this season, we need to maintain discipline when putting pressure on players. Guard your section of the field when dispossessed, mark your man and ensure that anyone who enters your space on the pitch does not leave without first being traumatized by a dogged chase.
Chances were being found towards the middle of the second half. Pressing forward, Ed attempted a shot, sliding into the 6 yard box with his right foot attempting to tickle the football into submission. It was one of the most amazing shots the team had ever seen. No Viking before had managed to strike the top of the crossbar from beneath the crossbar in the club’s history. Here, Ed’s Turkey was not given, it was earned.
Shortly after, Hoggy had arrived to a team of dough eyed Vikings expecting him to save the game. Player of the Season, top goal scorer, winner of the plate, winner of the SIFL, mother of dragons and the queen in the north. We all knew he would surely make an impact that would turn this game on its head. Miraculously when Hoggy came on it was 5-1 and with the advent of his arrival and with deft precision, Hoggy managed to do what was seemingly impossible. Thanks to Hoggy’s efforts, in the end, we only lost 6-1. Let that be a lesson to other teams out there in the league, no one beats the Vikings 7-1.
After a brutal score line and nearing the end of the match, Jonas sent in his secret weapon to end the game. Ed proceeded to perform his best and most coveted football skill, ‘the 360 reverse ankle twist’, banned from football leagues across the world for its extreme danger and the unrestrained idiotic appearance of the performer. With MOTM Toby sliding towards the beers in the background, the whistle blew, Ed in an ostrich position, glad that the livestream was nowhere to be seen.
Despite losing, it was quickly overcome and forgotten by the Vikings on the bus ride home. Perhaps it was the delicious hard lemonade beers we had all been waiting for, or maybe the naked showers with the team had reignited some of the strong bonds the Vikings have been forming over the last year. The team’s score line may have been devastating but the Viking spirit is an unshakable foundation of the team. Rolling off the bus into Hem chill, sliding if you are MOTM Toby, the value of Raiders membership was clear. We achieved a victory in brotherhood and an excuse to drink with excess. The night that followed underscored why we all joined the team (to get pissed it seems) and overshadows a loss that will be quickly overcome.
Well done Vikings,
‘Just because my daddy played professional football doesn’t mean I’m going to be any good you pr****, leave me alone.’
P.s. shout out to Dannie Vo for stepping up and pretending to be the goalkeeper whilst still actually playing in his usual position the whole game.