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Struggling giants Hà Nội FC hope COVID-19 break gives them a lift



Hà Nội FC midfielder Nguyễn Quang Hải (centre) and teammates are working hard for the return of the V.League 1 tournament after a three-week rest due to COVID-19. Photo

HÀ NỘI — The enforced rest due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have been a boon for the country’s two best-supported teams Hà Nội FC and Hoàng Anh Gia Lai ahead of the mid-March restart.

Hà Nội are rooted to the bottom of the table with two losses in two matches, a shock for the five-time champions.

“We did not have a good start with two defeats. We will have to prepare carefully for every coming match and play well because of the tough format of the tournament,” said coach Chu Đình Nghiêm.

“Our target is the top six first, then we could vie for the title in the second period,” he said.

After the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, Nghiêm and his players all tested negative for the coronavirus and returned to training.

They have also welcomed the return of key defenders Trần Đình Trọng and Đỗ Duy Mạnh after recovery from injuries.

“They both can follow the teams’ training plan. It is a good sign for all of us,” Nghiêm told reporters.

He also said that midfielder Moses Oloya who could not play in the previous matches due to a leg injury will be back in action.

Speaking with media, star midfielder Nguyễn Quang Hải is excited to play again soon.

“I really hope the pandemic is controlled well for the return of competitions. My club is struggling and under heavy pressure (after losses). We will have to overcome challenges to find ourselves,” he said.

“No one is happy with a loss of course, but we can learn about ourselves from it. We will stand up from where we collapsed and fight back strongly. Nothing could force us to give up our initial target of winning the V.League 1 title and it would be more wonderful if we could conquer the AFC Cup too,” he added.

Hà Nội, which recently extended defender Trần Văn Kiên’s contract to 2023, are now seeking opponents for friendly matches in the coming days.

They will visit Hải Phòng FC at Lạch Tray Stadium on March 13 when the league restarts.

Time for deep understanding

Thai coach Kiatisuk Senamuang of Hoàng Anh Gia Lai believes he understands his players better thanks to the extra preparation time the COVID-19 pause gave them.

“The postponement came reluctantly but personally I think it is good for teams with more time for preparing. I am closer with the players when spending more time with them in both training and daily activities,” he said.

He said the first two rounds of fixtures were like a pre-V.League 1 tournament for teams to test their line-ups, personnel and tactics.

“My players are happy to play again in the next few weeks and grab the best results. We want to take the championship trophy,” said the Thai football legend.

After two matches, Senamuang experienced one win and one loss which put his team in ninth position.

Hoàng Anh Gia Lai will host Topenland Bình Định on home turf on March 14 and Senamuang hopes to have the stands packed with fans.

In that match, the hosts will face their former striker Rimario Gordonwho failed to score a single goal in 10 matches for HAGL in the 2018 season but netted a solid goal return for Thanh Hóa and Hà Nội before signing a contract with Bình Định this year.

Gordon has scored one goal in two matches this season and is keen to punish his former team.

Speaking about his team’s preparation, Bình Định coach Nguyễn Đức Thắng said: “Following the new schedule, teams must play in tougher time table (three matches in 10 days). It requires strong physique from players, then teams in general and Bình Định, in particular, must have their own plan to make sure players’ best conditions and avoid injuries.”

Hoàng Anh Gia Lai will play a friendly match with V.League 2 side People’s Police while Bình Định will play V.League 2 Khánh Hòa in Nha Trang before their match in the Central Highlands’ Pleiku City.

Other matches will be between SHB Đà Nẵng and Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh on March 13, Quảng Ninh and HCM City and Viettel and Becamex Bình Dương on March 14.

The league organisers, the Việt Nam Professional Football Joint Stock Company (VPF), has only rescheduled 10 rounds of fixtures for the first half of the league season.

The league will pause again in mid-April when players are summoned for the national teams and some clubs take part in continental competitions.

The season will resume in July and is expected to end in September.

The V.League 2 matches will begin on March 19 while the National Cup will start in April with the exact date being confirmed later.

Local authorities will decide if supporters are allowed to attend matches. —



Exquisite images bathed in light



Ancient Vietnamese royal costumes, landscapes and traditional culture have all provided inspiration for Nguyen Duy Duy to create enchanting 3D lightboxes.

Exquisite images bathed in light
COLOURED IMAGERY: Duy’s lightboxes showcase ancient Vietnamese royal costumes, landscapes, and traditional culture.

A native of Thach That District on the outskirts of Hanoi, Duy came up with the idea of combining LED lighting and the Japanese art of “kirigami”, inspired by shadow puppetry, to create magical lightboxes as his university graduation project in 2018.

With the help of a friend, he experimented making lightboxes for over three years and then established his own brand — Fox Design. He and his friend are now considered the innovators of such creations in Vietnam.

Exquisite images bathed in light
KEY CREATIONS: Duy’s lightboxes are a source of pride for him because he understands the importance of culture for a country.

The 25-year-old’s latest completed project, entitled Việt Nam — Đất Nước và Con Người (Vietnam — Land and People), is a combination of three distinct parts, in which the “People” part aims to honour the beauty of Vietnamese women in traditional or ancient royal dresses.

Meanwhile, the “Land” part features beautiful landscapes in Vietnam, from the north to the south.

When seeking ideas for the project, Duy happened to hear the song Nhớ Về Hà Nội (Remember Hanoi) presented by singer Hong Nhung, which brought back childhood memories of hanging out with his father and rekindled his affection for his hometown.

Exquisite images bathed in light
DETAILED PROCESS: The first step is designing paper layers on a computer, then printing them and placing them in a certain order to complete the image.

Much of the scenery inside his lightboxes is associated with outstanding Hanoi landmarks like the Old Quarter, the Instagram-famous “train street”, and St Joseph’s Cathedral.

Stunning national landscapes also make an appearance, such as terraced rice fields, Hoi An ancient town, and the former imperial city of Hue.

According to Duy, presenting Vietnamese culture and costumes in his lightboxes is both a joy and a source of pride, because he understands that “culture is an integral part of a nation”.

Exquisite images bathed in light
STUNNING DESIGN: A woman in a royal costume, dating back to the 18th century, is the subject of one of Duy’s lightboxes.

“The ‘Vietnam’ part was the hardest for me, as I had to select what I consider to be national symbols,” he recalled. “After talking to my friend, I decided to integrate four cultural and artistic forms into our creations, including tuồng (classical drama), water puppetry, Hue court music, and the Central Highlands gong space.”

Before making any product, Duy must conceptualise, design, set up the background scene, and arrange paper layers on a computer. He then meticulously cuts out designs, which must be printed by hand on art paper in order to ensure precision in the final product.

After the cutting, the paper layers are attached to each other to create a complete image. Each layer must be carefully chosen so that its original quality is maintained, with no shrinking, stretching, or wrinkling due to unfavourable temperature or humidity.

Exquisite images bathed in light
PUT TOGETHER: Each lightbox includes from five to seven or even as many as 15 layers of paper, depending on the desired image and colour. VNA/VNS Photos Hoang Dat

Each lightbox includes from five to seven or sometimes up to 15 layers of paper, depending on the complexity of the context and image. Duy and his friend must strike a balance between component parts, so that the light can pierce through the paper layers and create the intended effect.

The set-up for the LED lighting at the back of the box is also carefully calculated. The ratio of light determines the colours in the final product. Thanks to laser printing technology, each member of Duy’s team can make three for four lightboxes a day with an increasing level of precision and sophistication.

Prior to the “Việt Nam — Land and People” project, Duy made lightboxes featuring famous scenes from classic films like The Lion King or celebrations of traditional Vietnamese festivals, from which he gained a lot of experience.

Sometimes he and his friend decide to start over again if they feel the colour is unsuitable or if light can’t make it through the set-up the way they prefer.

But that doesn’t dampen their spirits, and Duy and his friend are fully invested in pursuing their artistic craft.

“We plan to experiment with other subjects, such as childhood memories, depicting memorable moments that most kids in rural areas would have had, or more sophisticated topics like ‘feng shui’ or Buddha,” Duy said.



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Vietnamese grandmaster to coach American university chess team



The Vietnamese grandmaster is well known for his speed chess skills.

Le Quang Liem, the number one chess player in Vietnam, has been appointed the new coach of the Webster University in the US from June.

Liem will take over the position from Susan Polgar, former women’s World Champion, who has decided to retire after nine years on the job, citing health reasons and wanting to spend more time with her family in Florida.

Le Quang Liem used to be a team captain when he was a student of the Webster University chess team.

Liem is well known for his speed chess skills. He won World Blitz Chess Championship in 2013 ahead of several elite players.

 Le Quang Liem received the SPICE Cup 2015 Championship Award from Susan Polgar. File photo

Liem is regarded as having an extremely sharp tactical eye. He has won several open tournaments all across the globe, namely Aeroflot open, HD Bank open, the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) cup, Kolkata open and the World Youth Under 14 Chess Championship.

“Susan and Paul consider me family. I have learned a lot from them, both in terms of chess expertise and real life. I am honored to accept this position, and begin working with students from SPICE,” Quang Liem wrote on his personal page.

“However, the new assignment will not affect my dedication to Vietnamese chess. I will balance my schedule. For important and official tournaments like SEA Games, World Chess Cup and the Chess Olympiad, I will still be a Vietnamese representative,” Liem added.

Quang Liem had been invited to the Tepe Sigeman chess tournament at the end of this month, where he would compete with chess legend Anatoly Karpov. But the tournament in Sweden was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Liem was the premier chess prodigy from Vietnam and achieved his Grandmaster title at the age of 15. Ever since he has played for the national team of Vietnam and has also been their highest ranked player for the past several years.

Susan Polgar has been the director of the SPICE for 14 years, which she founded. She has also been the head coach of the student chess team at Webster University since 2012. She will officially retire at the end of May.

Polgar and husband, a former Wesbter coach-assistant, have helped the university win eight out of nine most recent national chess competitions.



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Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival



The third day of the third lunar month is the Cold Foods Festival of Vietnamese people. 

During this day, every household prepare traditional floating cakes, ‘banh troi’ (made of bits of brown sugar wrapped in glutinous rice paste and cooked by scalding in boiling water) and ‘banh chay’ (glutinous rice balls with mung beans filling, served in fragrant sweet soup) to offer to their ancestors.

Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
Ingredients for ‘banh troi’ include wet glutinous rice powder for wrapping and brown sugar for filling. Meanwhile, making ‘banh chay’ requires wet rice powder for wrapping, pounded mung beans and sugar for fillings; cassava powder, water and sugar to make soup. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
In order to make banh troi, first, one should wrap pieces of brown sugar with wet rice powder. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
After moulding, round glutinous rice balls are brought to boil. When two third of them float, they are ready to serve. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
Cooked ‘banh troi’ are served on plates. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
They are sprinkled with roasted sesame before offered to altars. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
‘Banh troi’ and ‘banh chay’ are offered to ancestors in the Cold Foods Festival. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
‘Banh troi’ is served on plate while ‘banh chay’ in bowl. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
‘Banh troi’ nowadays is more colorful as being mixed with natural food colourings, such as gac fruit, taro, etc. (Photo: VNA)



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