cheered the audience of the fully packed Tan Binh Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City. We were about 20 meters from the gym’s entrance but it was as though we were inside it already. Electrifying & thunderous!
By the time we got to our seats (Prime B), the game between Air Asia Patriots (Philippines) & Saigon Heat (Vietnam) had already started. The crowd was crazy! Mostly standing by their seats, holding red clappers, wearing red headbands- all cheering for the host team at their home court. The flags of two countries were hung on one corner of the gym and I could see a dozen of Filipino fans behind the Patriots’ bench, some expats wearing Saigon Heat jerseys and majority, of course, were the Vietnamese fans of Saigon Heat!
Saigon Heat was leading during the first quarter. When the local players shot, especially when Jones did his signature slam dunk, the 2000 screaming spectators would erupt, causing tremors in the mid-sized facility. When Air Asia bounced back, all I could hear was BOO and as a Filipino, I had mixed feelings. It would be so unpatriotic for me to cheer for Saigon Heat but too awkward if supported the Patriots because Saigon has been my home for nearly four years. So I cheered for both teams & enjoy the back to back action.
That was the second time that I went to their game. The first one was against San Miguel, another strong team from my home country. And tonight was my third! This time, I was a Vietnamese fan. I booed the Indonesian Warriors especially during free throws, shouted ‘NOY JAVIER’ whenever the Filipino three-pointer did what he did best outside the paint, jumped on my seat whenever Smith, Thorpe and Jones scored, and screamed with the crowd as if I was charging an enemy in a war.
On the 24th of March, I will be there again. San Miguel Beermen, my favorite team when I was in high school, will have another round with Vietnam’s very own Saigon Heat. I will be wearing my red head band again and I might bring a banner too. I’m a Saigon Heat fan, aren’t I?