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Hit soccer video game adds mixed-gender teams, sheds FIFA name



The blockbuster soccer video game franchise from Electronic Arts, no longer linked to FIFA, will allow mixed-gender lineups in fantasy matches that have triggered sexist pushback even before the Friday release.

Early access to the game, now renamed FC 24, began last week with the novel feature of female soccer stars virtually taking to the pitch with male counterparts for fantasy squad matches in an “Ultimate Team” mode of online play.

A version of the game tailored for mobile devices powered by Apple or Android operating systems was released Tuesday.

Spotlights on female soccer stars such as Sam Kerr and Alexia Putellas reflect the reality of the sport today, something the franchise wants to capture, EA Sports FC vice president of brand David Jackson told AFP.

“It’s not a moral thing; it’s not a cause-related thing,” Jackson said of fielding women soccer stars.

“It’s a faithful replica representation of the real world of football.”

Fans of the franchise offended by the idea of women and men athletes battling in mixed matches have bashed the game in online posts.

“This is like putting go-karts in F1 and racing them together,” a critic groused in a chat forum on YouTube.

“Putellas is actually good though,” a reply countered. “Don’t be sexist.”

Farewell FIFA

The launch of FC 24 marks the end of an alliance with world soccer governing body FIFA that spanned three decades.

Since kicking off the franchise in 1993 with FIFA International Soccer, the annually refreshed lineup has become a key part of EA’s business, boasting some 150 million players last year alone.

The franchise has shed the FIFA name for the first time as the California-based video game giant pursues a vision of becoming a “global football platform” incorporating broadcast games, live match play and more.

“There are a number of different ways we can grow and expand and we intend to do that in the future,” Jackson said.

“While we were called FIFA, we weren’t able to realize the potential due to limitations of the rights that we held.”

Along with freeing EA from contractual constraints that came with carrying the FIFA name, the rebranding also enables the franchise to avoid being marred by scandals at the governing body.

“If we’re going to carry the name of the organization as the name of our product, we’ve got to make sure that name carries the requisite level of quality, integrity and weight over time,” Jackson said.

“Now that we own that name, it’s all on us.”

Likely top seller

EA designed FC 24 to be familiar to fans while adding novelty to make it fresh, according to Jackson.

EA uses motion-capture technology on real athletes and in-stadium cameras to capture action that translates into the gameplay, ramping up the amount of content it gets from games in top leagues, he said.

“Yes, the FIFA license is gone, and the game won’t feature the World Cup, but other than that, the feature set is basically unchanged and arguably even improved,” Circana video game analyst Mat Piscatella said of FC 24.

“It’s been a huge part of the US gaming landscape over the past decade, and of course elsewhere in the world it’s even bigger.”

Piscatella expects FC 24 to be among the top 10 best selling video games of this year in the United States.

The games have already been among the top 20 best selling titles annually in the United States for more than a decade, he added.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter expects most players to see FC 24 as the game they have come to know, just with a different name.

As the franchise evolves, EA may explore incorporating advertising or real-time matches into its game engine, eventually allowing live-action viewers to play out matches their own way.

“You could be watching an English Premier League game,” Jackson envisioned.

“If you don’t like the score at halftime, then you jump out of that and into our game and kind of rewrite history.”



In Ho Chi Minh City, more and more young people fond of billiards despite prejudice



Numerous billiards clubs are now emerging across Ho Chi Minh City, with the majority of customers being young people, despite stereotypes.

On weekend evenings, billiards clubs are often crowded and lack available tables.

Based on Google Maps data, there are currently around 410 billiard centers in Ho Chi Minh City, most of which are located in populous areas including District 1, District 8, District 10, Binh Thanh District, Tan Phu District, Tan Binh District, Phu Nhuan District, and Go Vap District.

In the affordable segment, pool table rental prices vary from VND30,000 (US$1.24) to VND100,000 ($4.12) per hour, while modern-equipped places charge between VND120,000 ($4.94) and VND300,000 ($12.36) an hour.

Pool cue rental is not included in the mentioned fees, and it costs at least VND50,000 ($2.06) per person.

Besides that, many online groups on Facebook for billiards enthusiasts whose members range from thousands to hundreds of thousands have started to bloom such as ‘Cong Dong Bida – Chia Se Dam Me’ (Billiard Community – Sharing Passion), ‘Dam Me Bida’ (Passionate about Billiards), and ‘Cong Dong Bida Sai Gon’ (Ho Chi Minh City Billiards Community).

These pages aim to connect players for friendly matches, share skills, and promote this sport in Vietnam.

According to Van Anh, the manager of a newly opened billiards club on Au Co Street in Tan Phu District, customers of different age groups, mostly between 18 and 30, have been enjoying the facility.

She said that the busiest time is from 7:00 or 8:00 pm onward, particularly on weekends when tables are usually in full use.

Sense of community

Billiards seems to be a game suitable for gathering.

This sport arouses curiosity amid young people, tempting them to try it, even though it is often associated with both bad and good stories, Anh said.

Many entertainment channels that influence young people, including Schannel, share information about famous billiards players, which inspires more youth to learn about this sport, she added.

Tran Duc Anh, 22, a Tan Binh District resident, said he and his friends often go to billiards centers three to four times a week, and it has been three years since he first tried playing it.

“I find billiards trendy and recreational, especially when playing it with a group of friends,” Duc Anh said.

“Before entering the game, we often make mutual consent that the loser will pay for the group’s billiard fee. This small competition excites our moods and generates more fun.”

As for Thanh Chi, 18, billiards is beyond just a game.

“This sport is enticing in that participants must have a certain calculation of hand strength and ball direction to be able to win the match. In addition, billiards provides a great opportunity for friends or colleagues to gather around,” said Chi.

Normally, Chi and a group of four to six co-workers meet at a billiards club once or twice a week.


There used to be a perception amid the public that billiards is an unhealthy game due to its frequent association with alcohol, gambling, and prostitution, leading to many people believing that this sport should not be encouraged.

Nowadays, billiards is becoming more and more openly accepted since it is not only an entertaining sport but also a strategic game, requiring careful calculation and high skills to win.

Moreover, billiards is included in a variety of domestic and international sports tournaments.

Le Diem Hanh, 21, a senior from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, disagreed with the said prejudice even though she is not a fan of billiards, saying that billiards is a healthy game as there are many widely-broadcasted billiards competitions within and outside Vietnam.

Hanh emphasized that human beings themselves are the ones who assign negative connotations to billiards.

She also mentioned that billiards is a socially recognized profession.

Tran Mai Chi, 26, a District 8 dweller, saw eye to eye with Hanh.

“It depends on each person’s purpose when playing billiards. If it’s just for stress relief with friends or colleagues, there’s nothing bad about it,” Chi said.

Interaction and learning

As the mass sports training movement has spread in both breadth and depth, billiards has attracted a large number of amateur players because of its unique appeal. 

Thinh Kent (holding a pool cue), a renowned Vietnamese billiards player, has a positive vision of this sport in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Thinh Kent

Thinh Kent (holding a pool cue), a renowned Vietnamese billiards player, has a positive vision of this sport in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Thinh Kent

“Billiards is gaining the position it deserves in the heart of the public today,” affirmed Huynh Truong Thinh, also known as Thinh Kent, a renowned Vietnamese professional billiards player and the director of the billiards center Thinh Kent Carom Academy.

Frequent and large-scale tournaments are organized, with the primary focus being on interaction and learning rather than winning or losing.

The players who participate in these tournaments share a common passion and come together to motivate each other toward leading a more positive life, said Thinh Kent.

Billiards is expected to thrive and lure a large number of participants, making fitness, sports, and local entertainment activities more diverse and exciting.

Additionally, many talented billiards players have been discovered, contributing to Vietnam’s sports and promoting the country’s billiards strength in the international arena, he said.

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European athletes bag two gold medals at Vovinam world championship in Vietnam



Italy and Germany secured first place twice in the performance category on Monday, increasing Europe’s gold medal count at the seventh WVVF World Vovinam Championships 2023, taking place in Ho Chi Minh City, to four.

Short for ‘Vo Viet Nam,’ literally ‘Vietnamese Martial Arts,’ vovinam is Vietnam’s acrobatic martial art, which achieved a significant milestone in 2008 with the establishment of the World Vovinam Federation (WVVF).

Previously, Russia and Belarus had won two gold medals in combat events on Friday, the first day of the competition, which is being held by the WVVF from November 22 to 30 at Phu Tho Indoor Sports Hall in the city’s District 11, attracting more than 650 athletes from 35 countries and territories.

The two victories on Monday added great pride, marking European athletes’ first gold medals in performance events.

In the female ying-yang sword form team category, Italy’s Mazza Francesca, Di Nardi Iris Ida Carolina, Minniti Chiara, and Ibba Francesca came in first with 270 points, highlighting a grand achievement, considering they beat host Vietnam – the homeland of vovinam – by three points.

The four Italian athletes celebrated their victory by proudly singing their national anthem on the podium during the awards ceremony.

France’s Nguyen Viet Trang performs in the female duel knife form category during the seventh WVVF World Vovinam Championships 2023 at Phu Tho Indoor Stadium, Ho Chi Minh City, November 27, 2023. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

Germany’s Nguyen Viet Trang performs in the female duel knife form category during the seventh WVVF World Vovinam Championships 2023 at Phu Tho Indoor Sports Hall in Ho Chi Minh City, November 27, 2023. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

In the female duel knife form category, Nguyen Viet Trang, a German athlete of Vietnamese origin, secured first place with 262 points, narrowly surpassing Cisse Zeynab Findonan from Ivory Coast by just one point.

In the same category, another athlete of Vietnamese descent representing France, Truong Thuy Tien, came in third place with 256 points.

Before Monday, a total of 11 gold medals for performance events had been awarded, five of which went to Vietnam, three to Algeria, two to Cambodia, and one to Thailand.

Vietnam wrapped up the third day of competition by winning four gold medals.

In the male category of the ten-technique eight-principle form, Vuong Minh Khang of Vietnam claimed first place, surpassing Robin Sudorruslan of France by three points.

Vietnam’s Huynh Khac Nguyen performs in the male category of the sun-moon broadsword form during the seventh WVVF World Vovinam Championships 2023 at Phu Tho Indoor Stadium, Ho Chi Minh City, November 27, 2023. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

Vietnam’s Huynh Khac Nguyen performs in the male category of the sun-moon broadsword form during the seventh WVVF World Vovinam Championships 2023 at Phu Tho Indoor Sports Hall in Ho Chi Minh City, November 27, 2023. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

In the male category of the sun-moon broadsword form, Huynh Khac Nguyen secured a commanding first place with 275 points, maintaining a substantial ten-point lead over runner-up Maxime Chung, representing France.

Medallo Jovan from the Philippines and Tran Dinh Du from Germany tied in the same category with 262 points. 

In the rematch, Jovan earned 265 points and secured victory over Du by two points.

In the combat events, Le Ngoc Vinh Truong of Vietnam emerged victorious in the male 60kg category by a knock-out against Cantores Emmanuel of the Philippines, while Bui Xuan Nhat secured victory against Kao Vichetrach of Cambodia in the male 68kg final.

Competitions on Tuesday consisted of five performance and four combat events.

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AFC levies heavy fine on Chinese midfielder for kneeing Vietnamese opponent



Chinese left-winger Wei Shihao has been given a heavy fine by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for kneeing Vietnamese defensive midfielder Pham Xuan Manh in the face during the fourth match of the AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage earlier this month.

Wei committed the unsportsmanlike act on Manh in Wuhan Three Towns FC’s 1-2 defeat against Hanoi FC on November 8, resulting in an immediate red card in the 75th minute.

Following this incident, AFC announced a three-match suspension and a fine of US$1,000 for Wei.

This penalty renders the Chinese midfielder ineligible for the remaining two matches of Wuhan Three Towns in Group J against Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds and South Korea’s Pohang Steelers.

Should Wuhan Three Towns advance to the next stage, Wei’s suspension will carry over to the subsequent match. 

If not, the penalty will be reserved for application in the next ACL participation.

Additionally, AFC issued a warning to Wei, indicating that the fine may escalate if similar violations persist in the future.

In the aftermath of his misconduct against Manh, the Chinese midfielder also faced strong criticism from Chinese football fans and the press. 

Chinese-language Sohu newspaper commented that the unacceptable behavior leading to Wei’s red card has drawn widespread condemnation.

This is not the first time Wei has met with severe penalties as he received a six-match suspension in the top-tier Chinese Super League (CSL) for insulting a referee last year.

The 2023-24 ACL is the 42nd edition of Asia’s premier club football tournament, featuring 40 football clubs from 20 associations.

The 40 teams were drawn into ten groups of four.

The tournament winner will qualify for the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup in the United States.

Hanoi FC stand as the sole representative from Vietnam participating in this year’s ACL.

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