Saints wrap up an intense pre-season in style. Words by SimFin
About SaiGon Saints
Formed in 1995 and almost called Saigon Smokers (a reference to some, um, potential sponsors at the time) Saigon Saints quickly became one of HCMC's most respected amateur football clubs. We are a completely amateur expat Football club run by a team of (mostly) willing volunteers. We compete in the annual Saigon International League every year and train on a weekly basis. We also hold regular social events to keep our footballers entertained and during the year there are international tours and weekend trips to glamorous locations in Vietnam.
The Belfast-born shot-stopper Sean "Boyley", saves the blushes of many Saints defenders on a weekly basis. Huge fan of countdown and solver of complex conundrums, he carries cool, calm and calculated classroom-like characteristics to the sometimes cold and lonely 6 yard box. Once kept a clean sheet after drinking 2 bottles of wine before a game during the Irish presidential visit to Vietnam. Outside of football, Boyle keeps busy shooting darts and pool across various city taverns. Best pool player on the squad. Doesn't respond to meet up requests of other Saints when he's back in the homeland - he once drove 6 hours to the south of Ireland and didn't want to meet up with local fellow eager Saints. Only Saint to have last minute Viet 'runners' to play 5 a side games for him when he's too hungover. ALWAYS puts his hand up for another Tiger. Favourite Food: Irish Stew cooked Vietnamese style by his girlfriend and club regular, Linh.
A new acquisition for the 2017/18 Season from city rivals Saigon R*****s. When asked for reasons behind his controversial move into the light, he claimed “Because they’re barely human abominations, and they’re shit craic!”. Well, this was what Saints PR man Sean Boyle told me he said. Standing at 6”4, bald head, tattoos, with a penchant for weird emojis on whatsapp, I was frankly too scared of the fella to ask him myself.
Still, as much as he scares us I’m delighted he’s on our team. A big target man with the ability to play, he will be sure to do some damage in the league this year.
"El Capitano. Hulberto Solano, and the admiral of admin." are all names that have just been completely made up on the spot to describe the fearless leader of the Saigon Saints. Holding consecutives titles as player of the year, Ben Hulbert has given a true home to the captains armband which has really struggled to find comfort and security on the bicep of any other Saint in recent years. The hardest working amateur footballer in south east Asia has built a stronghold at centre back and leads the line with heart and poise. A devout lover of all things administrative, Ben is known to spend his free time scrubbing email lists, updating players statistics and trolling online MS Excel fan forums. An avid music fanatic Bens eclectic music taste can vary widely from champagne supernova to she's electric, usually depending on the results of Saints fixtures. There is not a striker nor a spreadsheet that can sleep easy in Saigon as long as Ben Hulbert leads the Saints into battle...
Marion henceforth known as Maid. No drama there then.
Our Maid’s bird dances on poles but our Maid dances at fives.
Our Maid propels a mean free kick but drives our Gaffer from fits of pique to love. Mind what else from a literate Scouser? But we digress.
Our Maid, frequently dazed and confused but of course abused. Well maybe not?
A talented chemist but surely a frustrated artist?
No drama there then.
The enigma, utility man, ex-chairman and absolute bloody lad, Peadon holds a decorated place within saint’s folklore (debut season 08/09). The man is a legend, quickly becoming a myth. Usually spotted jaunting into a bespoke establishment sockless and wearing slippers, he is a man known for his fondness for all things grand. His tenure as chairman was marred with scandal. Misappropriated funds, several trips to the Middle East (who can forget that golden suit), led many to draw their own conclusions. His influence can never be underestimated, he has seen saints come and go and many good friends depart. Through the thick and thin he has knitted one generation of saints to the next. A tour terrier who always remembers to stay clean and a cultured footballer with putty for knees. We should all be hoping that this saint stays to remind us of how things should be done.
It is a little-known fact that Sean is the 3,635th Irishman to play for the Saigon Saints. Sean arrived in Saigon by boat having been hastily smuggled out of Ardboe* by the 3,634th and 3,643rd Irishmen to play for the Saints - Aidy & Teague - for looking like a shit Josh Hartnett.
Another fact about Sean is that he chooses to wear a white t-shirt at all times, a bit like a shit James Dean. It must be said the Saints have profited from the time Sean saved in his choosing-what-to-wear routine. The 2016 season will go down in folklore not for the Saints’ distinctly less-than-average performances but for Sean’s creation of ‘the press’. He may have just watched Barca, but we reckon its down to those Saintly white t-shirts.
*Village name made up to protect Sean’s true identity (Not Josh Hartnett’s, obvs.).
The wee man from the north bit.
Or is he bigger than that?
He certainly has a word or two to say whether requested or not.
How large is his head?
Well he can certainly head.
But can he make it count in the end that counts?
For that matter can we ever find him and his bushy one?
Seems not, as he keeps disappearing with his Gaelic ones.
Then on occasion he rocks up with an exotic bit but she never sticks.
Mind, he says he’s a good head in the box.
Lucky bitch if he ever locates it.
‘Natures cruellest mistake.’
‘Too unique to live, too beautiful to die.’
‘Tis no man. Tis a remorseless drinking machine!’
‘It’s a high-powered mutant of some kind’
These are just some of the things that might have been said about Alex Crane during his time in Saigon.
Rio Ferdinand, John Stones, Alex Crane. The trend for ball playing centre backs has spread to South East Asia. Alex has good football intelligence, a touch like a pillow and is strong in the air. At his best Alex will dominate the striker with his reading of the game and turn defence into attack by linking quickly with the midfield with his accurate passes. Injury has prevented Alex from featuring in the first half of the 2017/18 season, but a recent return to training was a welcome sight and bodes well for 2018.
Away from the pitch Alex enjoys having deep and meaningful conversations with the staff in Saigon’s hostess bars, often until 5 or 6am, amateur wrestling also in hostess bars and offers a unique range of greetings such as a slap to the face or a headlock. He has a job that requires shirt and trousers, but is not a teacher.
“To pass the ball to
Pirlo Judd is to hide it in a safe.” Said Zbigniew Boniek gaffer Simon Finnigan of the veteran Midfielder. A midfield metronome with an outstanding engine, Judd has been overheard saying, "I’m a bit of a wandering gypsy on the pitch... All I’m after is a few square metres to be myself. A space where I can continue to profess my creed: take the ball, give it to a team-mate, my team-mate scores. It’s called an assist and it’s my way of spreading happiness." A professor of creative writing in his native USA, Judd is currently enjoying a sabbatical in Vietnam, and is therefore the Saints’ only full time footballer.
A man whose skill with a pen is matched only by his flair for silly headwear and good old fashioned, god damn charm. A long term resident of Vietnam, Connla was once known and feared as ‘La Tete’ in his Hanoian footballing days, but now it is his fearsome instagramming that sets him apart, with pictures of buildings and coffee and stuff. While remaining a handful for defenders, the target man’s most important role for the club is bringing a little bit of sophistication to the table, be that a table in Apo, Kim’s or a bespoke vintage café with an old bike in the background.
There is no greater Sinner than a young Saint
Sacre bleu! A pre-season match report of football in Saigon? C’est impossible!