When the crew arrived in front of the commune’s community house, they saw an empty gravel lot with a makeshift goal and white chalk lines that outline the field.
They were greeted shortly by a flock of ethnic women in black dyed dresses, two-pieced blue shirts and cloth headgears that keep their hair neatly in place, with the only non-traditional accessories being the fabric sneakers.
Each team consisted of seven women who knew exactly what they were doing and did not mind bumping into each other while taking and passing the ball.
Among the spectators of locals are the footballers’ husbands cheering them on and shouting out directions while still holding their babies.
20 minutes flew fast and the women took a halftime break to chat and get some refreshment, some even casually breastfeed their baby.
One of the youngest females of the group is La Thi Thao, a 16-year-old girl from Na Ech Commune. “My parents and big brother all play football, so I want to join the football team at both my school and the community house. I hope more of my school mates would take up sports to improve their health and stay away from problematic hobbies”, she said.
According to local official Nguyen Van Duoc, football has only been popular among female San Chay people for about five years, and over 80 percent of the 2,600 in Huc Dong Commune are of the San Chay ethnicity.
Although it is not a traditional sport, Huc Dong authorities have encouraged and promoted female football within the commune, and it has since become a staple of local tourism.
On the subject, the UNESCO Representative to Vietnam Michael Croft, during his business trip to Quang Ninh, expressed his appreciation for the natural beauty and unique culture of Huc Dong as well as the ethnic women’s football match. According to Croft, these football matches are an expression of gender equality and a smooth combination of traditional costumes and international sports which should be preserved.
“San Chay women harbor a genuine love for sports even when they had to spend their whole life working in the mountains. But now they can embrace football as a way to improve their physical and mental health, and also promote the unique cultural beauty of local ethnic groups and tourism”, said Mr. Duoc.