Baseball in Vietnam can go to professional play, thanks to a group of roughly 400 players and a far better-off economy than in Laos. Before the first game of the 2019 Summer Tournament, the Hanoi Ams Phoenix baseball team. Photos by Paul Bieniawski.
The Vietnam Baseball Federation was founded in 1951 and has administered the sport ever since. The country's only major league, the Hanoi Ams, debuted in 2009 and plays in a commercial stadium that it shares with another team, the Hai Phong Rebels. In 2011, after three seasons, the franchise was sold to an American company and renamed the Da Nang Giants; however, they went bankrupt after one season and were replaced by the Hanoi Ams.
In 2013, the Vietnamese government approved a plan to establish a second professional baseball league in Hanoi and Dong Hoi. The following year, the Vietkia Lai Dai (Vietnam New Stars) team was launched and began playing games across Vietnam. However, the team didn't last long and was shut down after just one season.
In Hanoi, the Hanoi Ams play their home games at the Haiphong City Stadium and use a four-man rotation during their weekly games.
Baseball, according to DiGravio, "has a modest but devoted following," despite being less popular than well-established sports like as soccer and badminton. Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs such as the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers are popular with Vietnamese fans.
In 2001, a private university in Ho Chi Minh City opened a baseball academy that has produced many talented players who have played for various foreign teams including the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays.
Vietnam's best baseball player is Hieu Dau. He has played for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league since 2003. In 2007, Dau was voted Japan's best pitcher after leading his team to the championship series before losing to Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
Besides Hieu Dau, there are other famous baseball players in Vietnam including Loa Bao Lam, an infielder who has played for the Boston Red Sox in the American Major Leagues from 1996 to 1997; and Tuan Xuan Thoi, a pitcher who has played for the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers in the National League (NL).
Lam and Thoi were both members of the Vietnamese national baseball team which won the silver medal at the 2011 Asia Cup held in Singapore.
It is worth mentioning that the Vietnamese sports sector has yet to establish an official body for cricket. Overall, the business promotes cricket through campaigning for the establishment of a cricket organization, particularly in the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh areas. This is a relatively new sport, but it is gaining popularity.
Basketball has grown in popularity in Vietnam in recent years, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Soc Trang. Although the Vietnam national basketball team has yet to establish itself in regional events, basketball is a very promising sport that draws a large number of skilled young players, particularly students. The country has plans to become one of the top 10 nations in Asia by 2050.
Vietnam made its international debut in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok – the only Southeast Asian nation not already affiliated with an international body. It won two medals: one gold and one bronze. Since then, it has never finished lower than fifth place at these games, and in 2009, it finished fourth with 55 points.
In 2007, Vietnam established an independent national basketball league called the Basketball Championship of Vietnam (BCV). The BCV is planned as a three-year project with an option for another three years. In its first season, eight teams competed in the regular season, with the top four moving on to the play-offs. The Phuong Nihais is currently the only Vietnamese professional basketball club, but several other teams have rosters filled with foreign players who are based in Vietnam but hired for the season by foreign clubs.
The national team has been competing in various tournaments throughout their history, most notably the FIBA Asia Cup. The team's first tournament was in 2001 in Kuala Lumpur, where they finished ninth out of 12 countries.
In Vietnam, Bong Da is the most popular sport. Since 1980, it has held its annual V-League competition (except in 1988 and 1999). From 1954 until 1976, when Vietnam was separated into two countries, North Vietnam and South Vietnam, two national teams existed. The North Vietnamese team was called the Vietnams and they played in world championships and competitions under that name until 1975 when they were banned by most countries for taking part in the Vietnam War. After their ban was lifted, the team renamed themselves the United States of Vietnam but they were not accepted as a member state by any organization. In 1977, a new team called Vietnam started playing international matches.
There are now 1.5 million people in Vietnam who play football. As in many other parts of the world, women's football is becoming more popular. There are several professional clubs in Vietnam plus many amateur clubs. The country's biggest stadium is the 10,000-seat Olympic Park Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City. It is used for training and games.
The Vietnam national football team has never qualified for a major tournament like the World Cup or the Asian Cup. But they have taken part in several tournaments organized by FIFA. In fact, they are the first Asian team to do so. The first game was on 15 August 1978 against Thailand at the Suphachalasai Stadium in Bangkok.