Club visit to Huong An FC
The Huong An football club is located close to Hue, but when you approach the club’s premises, you feel in a totally different environment. The landscape is spectacular, including wide rice fields and other plantations. The buffalos that you cross on the way add up to the particular atmosphere, which we enjoyed very much.
During our visit to the club, both the primary and secondary school teams were practicing on the same pitch. We therefore had the opportunity to attend a busy session. Our first impression was that the quality of the players was really good: they were comfortable juggling and dribbling. It was not a surprise when Mrs Hien and Mr Duoc, the physical education teachers, told us that there was a specific focus on individual skills during the training sessions.
We were also impressed by the size of the pitch. It was by far the biggest that we have seen so far. It is even more remarkable given that previously, this area was a graveyard. The whole school, supported by the local authorities, could convince the community to displace the graves in a different place further up the hill. To transform this area in order to give kids more opportunities to play was for us a very strong message on the importance of football for children’s development.
The club just recently went through some important changes, as the former headmaster, who had been very much involved in the club’s development, retired in November 2016. The new headmaster, along with her team, aims at continuing the good work, as the vice-headmaster, Mrs Chung, explained us. The objective is to provide the kids with a playground, while educating them on relevant life skills. These are mainly about Hygiene, HIV prevention and traffic safety. In addition, there is a specific focus on gender equality, especially as of 2015. They implemented role plays and drawing sessions as part of the life skills activities to highlight the importance of this topic.
Mrs Chung emphasized why football is the perfect tool to convey these messages: the pupils are passionate about football, and as soon as they see a ball they want to play. It is therefore easy to get their attention and talk about these important topics while having fun at the same time. Also, as soon as the kids are on the football pitch, they forget about the different genders, which provides a good frame to promote equality.
In addition to the two weekly training sessions, the club organizes one big life-skill event per year, one football tournament for both primary and secondary schools, and a big grassroots football school. Currently, the two teams have over 100 players each, respecting the 50% girls’ participation rule. Their network goes far over their district, as in addition to being a member of the FFAV project, they also have a cooperation with the friendship club of Norway, Kolstad, whose name they admitted was difficult to pronounce for them!
Another (more serious) difficulty is related to the material. They explained us that given the popularity of football, the material gets used quickly. They lack good balls and the quality of the goals is also a concern, as some of them are on the verge of falling down.
Despite these challenges, the club is very popular among the local community. We really enjoyed the visit and were glad to see so many players having fun at the same time on the same pitch !
Matthieu and Cyndie-------