The Viking Cup has become the most significant and prestigious tournament in Asia. Forget about Tiger Cup, ASEAN Games and Asian World Cup qualifying. The Viking Cup is the place where young fit players with exceptional skills play attractive football and numerous agents – easily recognized with their trench coats, dark sunglasses and busy mobile phones through which they are in permanent contact with Mourinho, Ferguson and Wenger – are among the thousands of spectators crowding the stands to follow the stars.
Most of us don’t really understand why we are working in Asia, while we in fact could have been playing in the Premier League making 50,000 pounds per week. In order to cope with this frustrating fact, a group of Scandinavian expats launched the Viking Cup back in the 1980s. It is now an annual event, where various Viking-teams engage in hard-fought battles on the football pitch to claim the regional glory and a prestigious trophy.
As this year’s host, the Saigon Raiders welcomed the other Scandinavian teams from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Saigon, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta. After an impressive Thursday night welcome party in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, the teams traveled to the pitches for Friday’s matches where they played on one of the best Viking Cup pitches ever.
The tournament basically developed as expected. The super senior team from Jakarta, whose defense alone has an average age of 46, fought hard against the young “Under-25” teams from China. As always, the Kuala Lumpur team cruised through the tournament with their creative play. Bangkok had flown in a wide range of ex-Bangkok Vikings from Sweden, Denmark and France, but suffered in the heat as only a minimum of substitutes were available due to exhaustion and unlucky injuries.
After two days of football, Kuala Lumpur retained their title as the best Viking team in Asia – followed by Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore. The Saigon Raiders had to accept the 5th place followed by Bangkok and Beijing. Jakarta accepted the last position, but they should receive praise for their efforts against the younger opposition.
Afterwards, the Saigon Raiders hosted the traditional Galla Dinner by taking all the teams for a boat journey up the Saigon River, and players, managers, wives and kids had a great night out in Ho Chi Minh City.
There was, however, one more piece of silverware left to fight for – the traditional beer rally competition. Speed, coordination, and stamina are key words in this competition, and the performance of last year’s winners from Bangkok proved once again that they master these abilities to perfection.
Next year’s Viking Cup will be held in mainland China for the first time in the tournament’s history, and the cooler weather should guarantee improved quality in skills and stamina. In the meantime, we will all wait for the phone to ring as one of the European club representatives might have managed to see the quality in our game. Or maybe not. But at least us Viking Cup players can be proud of being part of this strange group of people, who year after year choose to go through heat strokes, dehydration, and severe injuries in order to have loads of fun with fellow football maniacs and their families.
Fellow Vikings – See you next year in China!
Michael Nielsen – Bangkok Vikings