The ANZAC Friendship Match: Two black armbands; one bright future.

21-22 April 2012

The Vietnam Swans shall take on the might of the China Reds in the 3rd ANZAC Friendship Match in Vung Tau, Vietnam, on Saturday, 21 April 2012. The ANZAC Friendship Match remembers the losses suffered by all, as symbolised by the two black armbands worn by each player. Just as importantly, the match celebrates the present and looks forward to the future.

During the Vietnam War, Vung Tau served as the Australian logistics base. Between 1966 and 1971, Australian Rules football was played there on the Lord Mayor’s Oval – which has since become the greyhound racing track – home of the Vietnam Swans’ ANZAC Friendship Match.

Ron Vernon, who played for the RAAF in its winning 1967 premiership team on the same oval, attended last year’s match and will return this year. Mr Vernon said, “What the Swannies and their colleagues have created here is very impressive. The event is growing in size and quality. The symbolism is treated with such respect and the game is played in the true spirit of the ANZAC. I believe the whole event, from footy match to the ANZAC Dawn Service, will become a ‘must do’ for young Australians.”

Another Veteran from the 6th Royal Army Regiment, Kev McMillan, said, “The ANZAC Friendship Match very simply fulfils its name – ‘Friendship’, and I’m extremely pleased and proud to have been a part of it.”

Former AFL Star, Richard “Ossie” Osborne who played in last year’s match between the Vietnam Swans and the Hong Kong Dragons, reflected, “I feel blessed to have played on the same field that our diggers did during the Vietnam War. Until the day I die, I will never forget the ANZAC Dawn Service at Long Tan. That place is special and I get goose bumps at the thought of what our lads must have gone through all those years ago.”

At the ANZAC Friendship Match, each player will wear two black armbands to symbolise that the pain associated with loss is universal. Vietnam Swans’ National President, Phil Johns, said that the sense of occasion and symbolism on the day dwarfs the players. “Standing there on the Lord Mayor’s Oval, during the minute’s silence, wearing two black armbands…”

As of next year, diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Australia will have been flowing for 40 years. “But”, says Johns, “mention Vietnam and some people still freeze”.

“The ANZAC Friendship Match will shine the spotlight of the ‘new Vietnam’ back into Australia and encourage veterans to return. We shall warmly thank our Vietnamese hosts for generously welcoming us to their country. We shall use this match to raise funds for a local orphanage, the Centre for the Protection of Children in Vung Tau and Long Hai.

Further, in a country where more children die from drowning than road accidents, we shall raise awareness and funds for Swim Vietnam. However, we want to do more than ‘just’ reduce the number of drownings; we want to unlock Vietnam’s long coastline and extensive network of internal waterways to Vietnamese children. Bring on the wonderful water world of swimming and laughter!”

The Thailand Tigers shall host an ANZAC Match against the Cambodian Eagles this weekend near the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and Hellfire Pass.

ANZAC football matches have begun to take on special significance in South East Asia with many Australians now making the meaningful journey to memorial sites over the ANZAC weekend to pay respects and also enjoy a game of Aussie Rules. In Thailand for example, the Thailand Tigers will play an ANZAC Match against the Cambodian Eagles in Kanchanaburi, near WWII’s infamous Hellfire Pass on the Thai Burma Death Railway.

  • Saturday 21 April – 3rd ANZAC Friendship Match, Vung Tau; Vietnam Swans Vs China Reds. Followed by the McMillan Dinner including the Middleton Address.
  • Sunday 22 April – Battlefield tours including visit to Long Tan Cross
  • Wednesday 25 April – ANZAC Dawn Service, Long Tan Cross, followed by live coverage of the AFL’s ANZAC Day Match; Collingwood Vs Essendon

For more information on the 2012 ANZAC Friendship Match, click here.