“No more visa today, we’re closed.”
“What? It’s 10:30AM.”
“Sorry, come back tomorrow.”
Swans players within Vietnam have heard too many of these conversations as they’ve been preparing to get to Shanghai this weekend.
The lack of visas mere days before flying to China put question marks over a decent portion of the touring squad, frustrating the tour organisers.
“Come on guys, you had months to sort this out and you left it to two weeks out?”
In the end all players were fortunately able to get their visas sorted out, but only after repeated visits to the Embassy in Hanoi or the Consulate in Saigon.
Of course, this Saturday is the inaugural Shanghai Cup, hosted by the Shanghai Tigers and held in conjunction with the first AFL match in China to be played for premiership points, which will be on the following day.
The tournament is a 12-a-side competition, replacing the annual Manila Cup tournament that has previously been held in May each year. 14 teams will attend, across both the Open Age and Masters divisions.
Read more from AFL Asia: 6 Talking Points about the Shanghai Cup
Swans players in both the north and south of Vietnam have been continuing their training momentum since winning the 2017 ANZAC Friendship Match in late April, and the ability to watch an AFL match live has attracted some ex-Swannies from the motherland to jump on board.
From Australia, this weekend’s squad will see the inclusion of ex-vice captain and all-round nice guy Tim Pickert, as well as 2015 B&F winner Tom Doer. In-and-under midfielder Jake Norris (ex-Hanoian) will also be flying up, as well as Michael Carlaw who should prove valuable in the forward line.
In addition, three Vietnamese players – Vinh, Dinh Anh and Dang – have been selected to go to Shanghai as part of the local development program.
Vinh has been named as Acting Captain for this weekend’s squad. “Not good at acting” Captain Bill Crang had this to say about the squad:
“I’m disappointed the Chinese consulate found all those old footy tour photos and blocked my visa but so stoked that Vinh gets this opportunity. From his first training his optimism, support and effort has inspired our push to grow our local development. This is a good squad with plenty of favorite sons returning and plenty of current talent, reminds me of a squad in Manila a few years ago. I’m really hoping to see some pics come through Saturday arvo of Vinh holding that trophy in Shanghai!”
And from Vinh:
“There are a lot of respectful players in the team and I have never thought of being chosen to be a Captain of the Vietnam Swans. Wearing the captain armband of the Vietnam Swans is always the great honor for everyone. I am not sure what I can do as a captain but I will definitely put my best in.”
In other exciting news, “Uncle” Gus McEwin will be making his 425th tour for the Swannies when he jumps on the plane this weekend, and for the 417th time in a row has put his hand up to organise any off-field activities (immediately before being rejected for the 416th time).
The “Other” Footy Being Played this Weekend
Pleasingly, the Swans inner sanctum has been hearing numerous reports of heavy fluid intake, large purchases of energy bars and other various methods of preparation for a huge Saturday on the field.
But Sunday will be a different matter, with most Swans expecting to work through their post-match recovery while watching the Port-Suns AFL match on the following day.
And in another step forward for local AFL development in Asia, an all-local match will be played after the main event, with Team China playing against a combined AFL Asia Lions team. All three Vietnamese players will be a part of the Lions squad, along with players from Japan, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos.
Read the full team list for the China v Lions match here.
How good’s footy in Asia?
It all shapes up for a massive weekend of football in one of the biggest cities in the world. Go Swannies!