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Da cau: Vietnam's ancient 'foot badminton'


12-05-2016 13:01 BJT

Da cau, Vietnam's ancient game of so-called 'foot badminton', is a national pastime. The game is widely enjoyed in public squares, and is also played to celebrate bumper harvests or traditional festivals.

Hanoi on a Sunday is a carnival of physical activity. The normally frenetic streets are closed to traffic, and the city's residents take full advantage.

Among the dancers, footballers and rollerbladers can be found the graceful moves of da cau. It's similar to badminton but instead of a racquet, players use any part of the body to strike the shuttlecock.

"Da cau is a team game. People play in clubs and teams, so it encourages teamwork and cooperation," Stock market worker Nguyen Bich Hien said.

The game's Chinese origins stretch date back more than two thousand years. Players can either cooperate to keep the shuttle in the air for as many hits as possible, or return it play competitively across a net. Tuan Anh first fell in love with da cau at primary school, and in 2009 set up his own club.

"When I first came to this park, there were only four or five players. Now we’ve grown to a club of 40 to 50 members," Tuan Anh said.

Shuttlecocks were traditionally created with goose feathers, but nowadays they're more often made with strips of plastic. The most popular times to play are early morning and evenings, out of the punishing midday heat. And among Hanoi's increasingly health-conscious population, da cau still has a dedicated following.

"When I play other games, I feel more lonely. Going to the gym or walking you have no companions, so it’s not as much fun," Nguyen Bich Hien said.

In common with much of southeast Asia, football is now Vietnam's dominant spectator sport. But in the parks and squares of Hanoi, it's likely to be some time yet before the sun sets on Da Cau.

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