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The Real Hardcore Fan Club: Cheers to Nguyen, the Real Madrid super-supporter from Vietnam

In 2024 Heineken are on a mission to redefine what it means to be a real hardcore football fan, shining a light on the many different faces that make up modern fandom and celebrating the different ways they express their devotion to the sport and team they live.

The second installment of our unique series sees us meet Nguyen, a Real Madrid fan from Vietnam. A passionate, founding member of the Vietnamese Blancos applying his passion and determination to enable a community of like-minded fans to support their club despite the unsociable hours. Cheers to Nguyen.

On a monsooning May night in 2018 ahead of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, Nguyen found himself in a terrible predicament. More than 2000 of the Ho Chi Minh City segment of the Vietnamese Blancos, all adorned in white shirts, were packed into a small indoor arena, ready to watch THE most important game of the season. Nguyen and his fellow founding members had planned for weeks to find a location… sound system, catering, decorations, seating etc. Then, just two hours before the opening whistle, at a quarter to midnight, a military officer came in to shut down the screening. Disaster.

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You see, in Vietnam there are stringent laws in place if you want to host a mass gathering (generally speaking they are illegal after 5 pm without a permit), and they are particularly difficult to obtain if you are gathering past midnight - which is when every UCL match takes place on this side of the globe.

Fortunately, the football-loving Vietnamese government tends to be supportive of occasions just like this one and looks kindly on fanclubs watching important matches in the middle of the night. However, for this particular night and in this particular venue (an aircraft hangar inside of a military zone), the officer in charge was having none of it. Maybe he was an Athletico fan.

Nguyen and his friends had to react as fast as Ronaldo in his prime, calling on his team of 11 organizing members to start contacting every location they could and coordinating with their suppliers across the city.

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Under the pouring rain, Nguyen and his team managed to mobilize 2000 people and find a location suitable for them and the other 1500 who were already on their way from elsewhere. As Nguyen recalls, “it's hard to build a routine around match-days when they take place at 2am, but one tradition that remains with us today, was born on that fateful evening back in 2018 - lighting up the night, the fan club dressed in white.”

Imagine if you will the stream of blancos crossing the city, blaring their horns deep into the night, making a noise so loud it could be heard by the players of Madrid - this was the desired effect anyway and it’s stuck with us ever since.

Real Madrid would go on to win 3-1 on that magical night in Kiev, and secure their third consecutive Champions League title - their 13th in total. This unbelievable moment and unstoppable momentum on the pitch, was mirrored Nguyen believes by the Blancos of Ho Chi Minh City, who overcame their own odds to host their biggest and greatest ever event. As Nguyen notes, “This was a day that we will never forget. It was not just about winning three times in a row, but the way we enjoyed that match, the way we made it happen, it was more than just the result. When Bale scored his golazo it was a celebration unlike any other, it had all the emotion of that day behind it.” After the game Real Madrid’s press office caught wind of the incredible scenes that took place and aired their videos on the club’s TV and Social Channels.

Watch those incredible scenes here:

Nguyen’s love of football began when he was just eight years old ahead of the 1998 World Cup in France. He remembers his father putting a tournament wall-chart up in the living room and staying up extra late to watch the likes of Batistuta, Totti, and most importantly R9 (and that magical haircut he revealed in the final).

Four years later, R9 would go on to dominate in Korea and Japan. “This was a game-changing moment for it was the first time we ever got to watch great football in the middle of the day” Nguyen exclaimed. Following this tournament R9 would sign for Real and Nguyen’s future of hardcore fandom was written in the stars. In 2012 Nguyen decided to found a Peña of his own and the rest as they say is history.

After the departure of CR7 in 2018, the group suffered with many moving their allegiance to Juve and furthermore the club suffered some bad results, which saw a general drop in enthusiasm. Then came COVID… and Vietnam had a particularly intense lockdown. “In 2022 in the run up to the UCL final, I was watching the news closely to see what might happen as we had strict laws allowing only 10 people in a room at a time. Weeks ahead of the final things changed and we were able to bring 1200 people together. It was one of the first large gatherings in the city.

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Today, the Blancos of Ho Chi Minh City host events on big match days such as, Champions League quarters, semis and final, the El Clasico, and the Madrid derby. They often collaborate with charities and organizations, volunteering and raising money. Far from the bright lights of the Bernabeu on the streets of Saigon, the chant Hala Madrid continues to ring loud. As Nguyen says, “We come together wearing white in the middle of the night, to be seen by the players in Madrid.”

In Ho Chi Minh, what began as a childhood passion has flourished into a true community. One with its own legendary stories, rituals, and traditions. Despite being on the other side of the world and faced with inconvenient time-zones and restrictions, these Champions League fans are redefining what it means to be a hardcore football fan and what it means to wear the white of Real Madrid.

“I remember when Di Stefano was asked “what is Real Madrid?”... and he said… it’s a feeling, a passion, it’s the best feeling that we cannot explain with words. We know that we love Real Madrid, and want to do something for Real Madrid.”

Check out more stories of hardcore football fandom with Heineken via the Hardcore Fan Club Hub.