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Hockey makes its mark

Viet Nam News

Việt Nam is a country that is quite new to the sport of hockey.

The country only started playing the sport against other countries five years ago.

For now, hockey is being played more in universities than in schools in Việt Nam.

Cities in which people play hockey include Ho Chi Minh City, Đà Nẵng, and the capital.

Singaporean James Chew was a town planner for 35 years before he arrived in Việt Nam back in 2005. Having been a professional hockey player in Singapore, he and like-minded expats decided to start promoting the sport across the country, and thanks to their efforts Việt Nam has made significant progress. Thanh Nga talks to him.

Inner Sanctum: As manager of the Việt Nam national hockey squad and CEO of the Việt Nam Hockey Federation (VHF), you are leading the Việt Nam team at the ongoing Nantou International Men’s Hockey Tournament in Chinese Taipei. Can you evaluate the Vietnamese team and their rivals?

In any evaluation, we have to compare light with light. Firstly, we have to take into account when each nation started playing hockey. Việt Nam started international hockey in 2013. Secondly, we have to consider the hockey infrastructure (the number of hockey pitches, hockey academies and hockey competions), and thirdly the number of hockey players and coaches in each country. The number of players is important because the bigger the pool the more talented players you can recruit for the national team. If you take these three factors into account, Việt Nam is severely handicapped against our rivals at the tournament. If hockey has a handicap system like golf, I would say Việt Nam hasn’t fared so badly.

Inner Sanctum: Will Việt Nam compete at any other events?

There are three International Hockey Federation (FIH) events next year: the Hockey World League in Singapore, the Asia Cup (Indoor Hockey) in Bangkok and the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA) Games in Manila. There is also the Oceania Tournament in Australia which is an invitational and the 2nd Nantou Hockey Tournament which Việt Nam can take part in. Whether Việt Nam will compete or not depends on whether we can secure sponsorship for the team.

Inner SanctumThanks to your efforts, hockey has been played in Việt Nam for over 12 years now and has made great advances. Can you sum up the results?

To sum up, hockey development in Việt Nam has been phenomenal given the challenges it has faced over the 12 years. We set up the Việt Nam Men National Hockey Team in just six years with limited resources. We’ve participated in two Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and One World League Tournament. Việt Nam became a member of the International Hockey Federation in November 2014 and we now have 1,000 hockey players in the country.

Inner Sanctum: Việt Nam has a men’s hockey team to compete in international tournaments including the Southeast Asian Games. Do you intend to establish a national women’s hockey team?

Work is in progress to start a national women’s hockey team. We would focus on indoor hockey first for the women’s team.

Inner Sanctum: Of all the achievements you have made, which one stands out?

It has to be helping Việt Nam to participate at its first ever international hockey tournament (at the SEA Games in Myanmar in 2013).

Inner Sanctum: Have you encountered many difficulties and challenges during your time developing hockey in Việt Nam?

Much success has been achieved in creating awareness of hockey in Việt Nam, but getting funding to develop the sport is still the main challenge. Whilst Vietnamese universities are already playing hockey, we are still trying to introduce it in schools. We need to do this to develop the sport.

Inner SanctumUsing your own private funds, you built the Việt Nam Hockey Centre in Long An Province in June 2013. However, there are still only a few hockey events in the country because many people don’t know about the sport. How do you use the centre effectively?

The Việt Nam Hockey Centre is waiting for more players and events, so we allow the centre to be used for football, touch rugby and other sports. So to answer your question, we use the centre as a multi-sports venue so it can be utilised effectively. It is a challenge keeping the centre going.

Inner Sanctum: What’s your next plan to develop hockey in the country?

The plan has always been to spread hockey to the other major cities and large towns in Việt Nam. Hockey is now being played in HCM City and Đà Nẵng, and has also been introduced to Hà Nội. On the international stage, the plan is to win a medal at the SEA Games which would help promote the sport. At the next SEA Games, we hope to send both men’s and women’s hockey teams to Manila.

Inner SanctumWhat are your personal ambitions?

I can do much more to develop hockey in Việt Nam. As I have used up most of my own money, I hope to find a sponsor that can cover my own salary so I can give up my job at Nagecco and focus on hockey full time. After 12 years I can see the potential of the country becoming a strong hockey nation because Vietnamese are sport-minded and the country has a large population.

Within the next five years, Việt Nam’s men’s team could be in the top 20, and the women could go top 15. Many of my hockey friends in other countries like powerhouse Malaysia are in awe of Việt Nam’s potential. Just like football, Việt Nam has the potential to be the top hockey nation in SE Asia.

I have seen two players at Bắc Ninh Sports University who picked up hockey so quickly they looked like seasoned pros in just a few days. To build a strong national team we need to find more players like them throughout Việt Nam. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first  Prime Minister, said you need five million people to find a genius, so in Việt Nam with nearly 100 million, you have 20 genius hockey players which is enough for a national squad.

Inner Sanctum: How much money do you need from a sponsor for you to focus on developing hockey?

I am looking for VNĐ100 million (US$4,350) a month less than my actual salary.

Inner SanctumCan you tell me a little bit about your former and present jobs?

By profession, I am a town planner. I helped plan Singapore working for the Singapore Government between 1990 and 1998, and came to Việt Nam in 2005 to plan Phú Yên Province. I stayed in Việt Nam after the project and worked for VinaCapital, then BRG Group and VinGroup. Currently, I am with Nagecco as their Director of Business Development and advisor of master planning and design work.

Inner Sanctum: Why did you choose to live and work in Việt Nam?

Việt Nam is an emerging economy with a growing urbanisation rate with many challenges to plan and build a better physical environment for a better quality of life. I love challenges and finding solutions for them. VNS

GLOSSARY

Can you evaluate the Vietnamese team and their rivals?

To evaluate something means to work out what it is worth.

Rivals are people you are often trying to be better at something.

The number of players is important because the bigger the pool the more talented players you can recruit for the national team.

A pool of people is a group of people who are able to do something, such as play hockey, from which a team can be chosen.

People who are talented at something have natural skills in it.

To recruit people means to find the right people to do something and get them to do it.

If you take these three factors into account, Việt Nam is severely handicapped against our rivals at the tournament.

If someone is handicapped, there is something wrong with them that makes it difficult for them to perform in one way or another. If someone is severely handicapped, he or she is very handicapped.

If hockey has a handicap system like golf, I would say Việt Nam hasn’t fared so badly.

Fared means performed.

Will Việt Nam compete at any other events?

To compete in an event means to try to be the best in an event and do better than others who are taking part in it.

There are three International Hockey Federation (FIH) events next year: the Hockey World League in Singapore, the Asia Cup (Indoor Hockey) in Bangkok and the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA) Games in Manila. There is also the Oceania Tournament in Australia which is an invitational and the 2nd Nantou Hockey Tournament which Việt Nam can take part in. Whether Việt Nam will compete or not depends on whether we can secure sponsorship for the team.

International means involving a number of different nations.

If a team has sponsorship, its expenses are paid for by someone.

To sum up, hockey development in Việt Nam has been phenomenal given the challenges it has faced over the 12 years.

If something is phenomenal, it is amazing.

We set up the Việt Nam Men National Hockey Team in just six years with limited resources.

Resources are wealth. If there is limited wealth, it cannot be spent forever because it will eventually run out.

How do you use the centre effectively?

Effectively means in such a way that it achieves what it sets out to achieve.

So to answer your question, we use the centre as a multi-sports venue so it can be utilised effectively.

A multi-sports venue is a place where many different types of sports can be played.

Utilised means used.

On the international stage, the plan is to win a medal at the SEA Games which would help promote the sport.

To promote a sport means to make it better known and more popular.

Inner SanctumWhat are your personal ambitions?

Ambitions are things people aim to develop and achieve.

After 12 years I can see the potential of the country becoming a strong hockey nation because Vietnamese are sport-minded and the country has a large population.

Potential means possibility.

Many of my hockey friends in other countries like powerhouse Malaysia are in awe of Việt Nam’s potential.

To be in awe of someone means to admire, fear and almost worship that person for his, or her, powerful qualities.

I have seen two players at Bắc Ninh Sports University who picked up hockey so quickly they looked like seasoned pros in just a few days.

Seasoned pros are professionals who have lots of experience and know what they are doing.

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first  Prime Minister, said you need five million people to find a genius, so in Việt Nam with nearly 100 million, you have 20 genius hockey players which is enough for a national squad.

A genius is someone who is brilliantly clever.

A squad is a team.

Nam is an emerging economy with a growing urbanisation rate with many challenges to plan and build a better physical environment for a better quality of life. I love challenges and finding solutions for them.

An emerging economy is the economy of a country that is on its way to becoming a developed country rather than a developing country.

Urbanisation is the process of people moving from the country to the cities and towns.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

  1. James Chew comes from a country outside of Việt Nam.
  2. There are thirteen International Hockey Federation events in which Việt Nam can take part, next year.
  3. Việt Nam became a member of the International Hockey Federation in 2004.
  4. The South East Asia Games were played five years ago in Myanmar.
  5. The next South East Asia Games will be played in Singapore.

ANSWERS: 1. True; 2. False; 3. False; 4. True; 5. False.

The article "Hockey makes its mark" was originally published on http://vietnamnews.vn/english-through-the-news/483227/hockey-makes-its-mark.html