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Troubled, unpredictable, but still the greatest there ever was




GENIUS: Diego Armando Maradona. AFP Photo

By Paul Kennedy

Really and truly I should absolutely loathe Diego Armando Maradona.

What that man did for Argentina when they played England in the World Cup quarter final in 1986 was unforgivable.

He cheated, Argentina won and England failed once more on the biggest of stages.

Yet despite his obvious handball that everyone except the referee saw that sunny June afternoon in Mexico’s Estadio Azteca, I don’t hate him.  

In fact it’s just the opposite, Maradona is my hero.

Since his death at his home in Buenos Aires on Wednesday night, many experts have said that Maradona was one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game.

They are all wrong. He was the greatest and he will never, ever be surpassed.

Messi, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, all amazing players, but none of them are good enough to lace the boots Diego wore. And here’s why.

Diego was a character, and despite his diminutive stature, he was a giant of a footballer, larger than life itself, and could do things with a ball nobody else could.

He won the World Cup for Argentina in 1986 virtually on his own, he was the star of the show. And after his bizarre move from Barcelona to Napoli two years prior, he elevated the Italians to the most successful period in the club’s history.

Sure, he had issues. Some more serious than others. But then again all geniuses are flawed one way or another.

Maradona liked playing football. He also liked cocaine, partying, booze and women. All of which probably took its toll and led to his death at a relatively young age of 60.

I recently watched a documentary series on Netflix called Maradona in Mexico and it charts the fortunes of a below average club Diego becomes manager of.

His team talks are brilliant, his passion was still clear to see (although maybe that was the coke, who knows, he was after all living in Sinaloa) and, surprise, surprise, he gets the job done.

Yes he was unreliable, yes he sometimes vanished without trace for weeks at a time with the owner of the club at his wit’s end trying to find him.

But that’s Diego, that’s what you get.

Many years after he committed the ultimate sin by using his hand, or the hand of God as he famously put it, to beat England, he was interviewed by Gary Lineker who played against Diego that day in Mexico City.

He never apologised for his actions and he insisted he never cheated. Instead he claimed using his hand to score was just him being crafty, cunning and, in his own words, a bit cheeky.

Four minutes after he scored that goal, Diego grabbed a second for Argentina, taking the ball from his own half and dancing through the entire England team before slotting it home. It’s been described as the goal of the century and I won’t disagree.

And while it was probably the best ever goal scored in any football match ever, I’m sure Diego would say his first goal was even better.

In an interview recently he said after he dies, if he could be reincarnated he would want to come back to life as…. Diego Maradona.

He also said he would change nothing and just do everything all over again exactly. Another one of the many reasons I love him so much.

Sadly he won’t be reincarnated and there will never be another quite like him. — 



Muong people preserve mother tongue



The Muong people in Hoa Binh province have organized several programs to promote the Muong language as part of efforts by ethnic groups to preserve their culture and their mother tongue. 

A performance of Muong folk dance and songs at the Muong Bi Summer Festival 2020. (photo:

A performance of Muong folk dance and songs at the Muong Bi Summer Festival 2020. (photo:

The rich culture of the Muong has spread from generation to generation mostly by word of mouth. Long ago, the Muong ancestors transcribed their spoken language using Chinese characters. Some of those ancient documents are still preserved in the Muong community.

In 1945 Vietnam adopted an official Vietnamese script. Muong people then began to transcribe their language into Vietnamese. A large number of poems and shaman’s prayers have been recorded and preserved by the Muong community.

Muong’s shamans are the guardians of Muong philosophy and education. In his life, a Muong person typically passes through 23 rituals conducted by shamans. The shaman prays for a newborn baby to eat heartily and grow up strong. When a child is ill, the shaman asks the Mother Goddesses to cure him. He conducts a ceremony to help adults chase away bad luck and evil spirits. Shamans are indispensable at weddings, housewarmings, and worshiping ceremonies. Shamans pray for old people to enjoy wisdom, good health, and longevity. When someone dies, the shaman acts as a guide to lead the deceased to the other world.

Dinh Cong Tien, a Muong shaman in Tan Lac district, Hoa Binh province, said “I learned to be a shaman when I was head of acooperative. I wrote down all the worship prayers I learned orally from old people. I listened to them, memorized them, and transcribed them. Worship prayers are a cultural treasure of the Muong.”

The Muong language and culture are being kept alive by Muong shamans. A Muong Culture Club was established in 2017 in Ngoi hamlet, Tan Lac district. A second Culture Club opened at Dinh hamlet, ManDuc township, in 2019. There people learn to play gongs, sing folksongs, dance, and make traditional costumes.

Bui Thi Mien, who teaches Muong folksongs at Dinh hamlet’s Culture Club, said the club attracts people of all ages. Old people join the club to recall their memories. All club members share their knowledge of Muong folk songs and ideas for preserving the Muong culture.

Member Bui Van Yeu said “Muong folk songs are embedded in the minds of Muong people. They were created to commemorate important events. We sing them at weddings and funerals. I worry that one day modern culture will overwhelm our folk culture. I teach folksinging to anyone who wants to learn and preserve the Muong culture.”

The Muong account for 63% of the population of Hoa Binh province.


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Coach Hải, a lifetime dedicated to football



Former coach Lê Thụy Hải will be given the Fair Play Glory award. — Photo


HÀ NỘI — The 2020 Fair Play Awards will be announced tomorrow in HCM City to honour sportsmanship, honesty and fair play over the last year.

The organising board will give awards to five candidates and former coach Lê Thụy Hải will be given the Fair Play Glory award for his great contribution to Vietnamese football.

Hải is a figure of great standing in Vietnamese football, however, at the age of 75, Hải’s health has been greatly affected by pancreatic cancer for more than four years.

Hải can talk about football all day with his boundless emotion and insight. Football gives him a lot of things and he has been devoted to Vietnamese football throughout his career as a player and coach.

Born in 1946, Hải started his career with the football team of General Department of Railways and played with the team until he retired.

Famous for his skills and strong finishes, Hải didn’t win any North Championships because at that time Thể Công was too strong.

Recalling the past, Hải said his greatest honour was to be with his teammates like Mai Đức Chung, Hoàng Gia and Lê Khắc Chính to go south to compete with Saigon Port in 1976 after the reunification of the country.

“Thể Công were champions at that time and Railways only finished second, but Railways were called the champion team of the workers’ teams, so they were allowed to represent the Northern teams to go to Sài Gòn to play,” said Hải.

In this historic match, Hải left a strong impression when he had an assist to help striker Chung score the opening goal in the 28th minute before creating a strong shot near the middle of the field in the 54th minute to secure a 2-0 victory for the Railways.

“After the match ended, no one cared about the result. However, we were extremely happy as the Sài Gòn audience stood up and encouraged us warmly. It was an unforgettable memory of my career,” said Hải.

Lê Thụy Hải made many contributions to Vietnamese football. — Photo

Special coach

At the age of 60, Hải began coaching in the V.League 1 in 2004 when he led Hà Nội ACB after previously only coaching lower-level teams.

In just 12 years of coaching in the top tier, Hải led Bình Dương to win three V.League 1 titles in 2007, 2018 and 2014. Only coach Chu Đình Nghiêm has equalled this achievement with Hà Nội FC who triumphed in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Hải was likely the only coach in the V. League 1 without an AFC ‘A’ Coaching Certificate.

“There are those who have the conditions to go to school, they have many degrees, and while everyone was in school, I had to work to earn money,” said Hải.

Later, teams had to register him as technical director to follow the rules, despite the fact that he was still the head coach of the team.

Hải was often hired to coach teams when they were in a relegation battle and regularly staved off the dreaded drop with Bình Dương (in 2006 and 2013), Vissai Ninh Binh (in 2010) and Hải Phòng (in 2012).

The last time he worked was for Thanh Hóa in 2016.

Famous as a personable player, he kept up his loquacious manner as a coach with many statements related to Vietnamese football published by the press and creating many controversies.

Recently, during the Hà Nội Football Festival with the commemorative derby between Thể Công and Hà Nội Police, although Hải was very tired, he still attended the festival with his teammates.

During his treatment for pancreatic cancer, Lê Thụy Hải always has his wife by his side. — Photo

After several decades working as a player and a coach, Hải has won hundreds of matches and now those who love him want him to win one more over fate and disease.


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Da Nang museums attracting domestic visitors with free entry policy



Due to COVID-19, museums around the country have welcomed substantially fewer visitors.

Da Nang, however, has introduced a policy of free entry to museums during all of 2021, which has encouraged a number of domestic travellers to visit the central coastal city and improved the local tourism sector.

After a period of not welcoming any visitors due to the pandemic and then widespread flooding, the Cham Museum in Da Nang has hosted many domestic travellers keen to learn more about the Champa people’s architectural marvels.

The Cham Museum is not alone in posting an increase in visitors, with other museums in the city also welcoming more people due at least in part to the free entry policy introduced by local authorities for all of this year.

Museums around Da Nang welcomed an average of 1,000 to 1,500 visitors during the first week of the new year. While entry is free, services and programs remain top quality.

Museums around Da Nang are considered valuable in helping people discover and explore the local land and people. With the free entry policy, visitors from all walks of life can understand more about the central city./. VNA


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