Soccer is perhaps the only sports that I enthusiastically watch live. There, I've said it, I'm not a sports fan. I'll watch the cricket from time to time; I used to go to the one-day'ers in Sydney when Sri Lanka was playing (always cheering for Sri Lanka of course!), and backyard cricket has always been a Xmas day tradition but that's about it.
Soccer (football), however, is different. At 90 minutes, it's short and it's played with such passion and skill that it's quite mesmerising. Plus, I've played soccer so at least I understand what's going on.
So, when two tickets unexpectedly dropped into our laps to see Laos play Kuwait in a World Cup qualifying match, of course we said yes!
The game was being played at the National Stadium, about 20 minutes north of the city. Built by the Chinese (there is lots of Chinese-built infrastructure around the city), the floodlights were visible long before the stadium came into sight.
We waved our tickets at the guard driving into the parking lot. Night food stalls selling fresh fruit, water, drinks and hot food drew the casual crowds sauntering outside the stadium. In typical Lao PDR ("please don't rush") fashion, no one seemed in a hurry to get inside though the national anthems were already playing.
I immediately realised that I was overdressed, which isn't really like me but it's hard to judge these things sometimes. I also realised that there were more insects flying, falling and buzzing through the air than I've ever seen before, drawn by the massive million-watt lights overhead.
From the look of these two photos (of mine) above, you may think the crowd was on the small side. But it's just that everyone was sitting on my side of the field. Truly.
Behind us were the Kuwaiti supporters who faithfully chanted "Ku-wait!" the whole game, and on the left were hundreds of Laotians with a row of drummers, a megaphone and one of those hooting horns down the front. Flags flew, insects too, drums beat, crowds cheered. On the field, the Kuwaiti strikers attacked again and again, and the Lao goalie did a tremendous job defending.
The only thing missing for me was a nice cold beer. Nobody was actually consuming alcohol around us or anywhere that I could see, only small plastic bags of fruit and plastic bottles of water. But my Aussie heritage argued the beer + sports logic so I sent az off to find one.
To my surprise, he returned with one. With a straw and ice in a plastic cup encased in a plastic bag but it was cold and thirst-quenching.
Half-time was arguably more entertaining than the match itself. A man and woman wheeled a trolley down in front the crowd and started shouting and cheering the crowd on. They were giving away soccer balls and everyone seemed very keen to get one. The woman then tried to throw one into the crowd but it bounced down again. I shouldn't laugh at other women who (like me) can't throw a ball but it was pretty funny. Then the guy started kicking them up into the crowd.
Ten minutes later and the game was back on. I'll save you the suspense and just tell you the score. Laos lost 0-2 but it was a great game. Apparently there's a Laos-Korea game coming up too. I reckon I'll be back... though perhaps wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and with some insect repellent.
Do you get up at odd hours to cheer for sporting matches?