Women’s footy on the rise in Vietnam
Every now and then, when I am sad or troubled by the warming of the Earth or the rise of the seas or the ruin awaiting us all, I jump on a plane and go to Vietnam.
Readers will be well aware of my love of the Orient in general, and Saigon in particular.
Ah yes, I’m sitting outside my favourite bar, slap-bang in the heart of District One.
A hot sun is beating down, so a black straw fedora protects my brow as I enjoy a late afternoon glass of sauvignon blanc.
Saigon is a city with a pulse to be savoured, day or night. It’s not Subiaco.
I was in Rokeby Road at 8.30pm last Saturday week and if I had discharged a shotgun down the footpath in front of me, I wouldn’t have hit a soul.
One can linger on that thought and conclude some remedy is required to reinvigorate Subi at night!
Saigon is where, back in 1966, had the marble with my birth date on it come out of the hat, I’d have had a .303 rifle slung over my shoulder fighting the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.
A mate of mine, and fellow Australian Football Hall of Famer, South Australian Graham Cornes, actually did see action in the Vietnam War.
He was stationed at Vung Tau, far too close to where the Battle of Long Tan took place, which saw 18 Australian soldiers lose their lives.
No such anxiety today.
I love the Vietnamese people and have come here so often that I have made a few friends.
Phil Johns is one of them, an ex-pat Aussie I met years ago, when he was the president of the Vietnamese Swans.
Many things have amazed me about footy in Vietnam.
First is the standard, which is not at all bad considering everything – indeed, the last time I asked there were about five or six Vietnamese players in the Saigon-based team.
What I didn’t know until recently was that there was a women’s team too, and Phil suggested I meet Cecilia Sabbatucci, the Australian coach and co-captain of the Vietnam Swans’ women’s team, the Lady Swans, and the driving force behind it all.
The Lady Swans are a really diverse group, with local players from Vietnam as well as from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Ireland, Canada, the US and the UK.
Last month, they won the first AFLW division of the Asian Championships, beating a strong side from Hong Kong.
The contest involved teams from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Cambodia as well as Vietnam.
The women’s division of the championships quickly emerged with the support of AFL Asia and the Swans say there is a really strong bond between the teams.
For many of the Lady Swans, it was their first sporting title ever.
Some players had learnt the game only over the few months before the comp.
Cecilia – or Chia as she likes to be called – was born to play Aussie rules and loves the game.
She’s built for speed, like her grandfather, Vincent Sabbatucci, who played for St Kilda way back when, and also
Austin is happy Aussie Rules footy is alive and well in Saigon, where Cecilia Sabbatucci is head coach and driving force of the VietnamSwan’s women’s team.