Vietnam petanque team overcomes difficulty to compete at SEA Games hinh anh 1Vietnam petanque team started to gather from the beginning of March 2022 to prepare for the 31st SEA Games. (Photo: Minh Son/Vietnam+)

Hanoi (VNA) - The story of "poor children overcoming difficulties" is analogous with the underfunded sport of petanque, as the interest in the sport is still very limited. Petanque (iron ball bowling) has only meager resources compared to many other sports. The little-known sport is also unlikely to receive much attention from fans as well as government funding.

In recent years, it has been difficult for the Vietnamese petanque team to gather for practice. The team has only had a long-term practice facility for 6 months, moving from place to place from 2005 until now.

There was even a time when the team could only practice for about 15 days before participating in the Asian tournament. Overseas training sessions or regional competitions are an extreme "luxury."

On the eve of the 31st SEA Games, such difficulties continued to surround the team. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, it was almost impossible for the whole team to gather and practice together. Athletes also do not have many opportunities to compete due to the continuous postponement and cancellation of domestic tournaments.

The head coach of the Vietnamese petanque team, Mr. Dang Xuan Vui, said he had not met all athletes in the past two years. In recent months, he has just started coaching and planning with the team.

Vui said: “Vietnamese petanque is strong, but now faces so many difficulties. We do not know how to compete in the SEA Games.”

For the past two years, the team has not received training or information about the opponent, said the head coach.

Vietnam petanque team overcomes difficulty to compete at SEA Games hinh anh 2The Vietnam petanque team will attend the 31st SEA Games with 19 athletes, competing in eight events. (Photo: Minh Son/Vietnam+)

In Southeast Asia, the Thai petanque team is the strongest with many athletes being trained and competing in international tournaments. The rest, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are ranked in the second group.

Coach Dang Xuan Vui said that because the time of the 31st SEA Games coincides with the Petanque World Championships in Denmark, Thailand is unlikely to send the strongest squad to Vietnam. It is an opportunity for the Vietnam team to compete for the gold medal. However, Thai petanque is also expected to acquire about five medals in the upcoming tournament.

At the 31st SEA Games, the Vietnam petanque team places its hope in two female athletes Nguyen Thi Thi and Nguyen Thi Hien. These are two familiar faces in the past decade of Vietnam petanque.

Vietnam petanque team overcomes difficulty to compete at SEA Games hinh anh 3Athlete Nguyen Thi Hien is the first person to win a gold medal for Vietnamese petanque. (Photo: Minh Son/Vietnam+)

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Thi is still the mainstay of Vietnam's petanque after winning two consecutive SEA Games gold medals in 2015 and 2017.

Like many other sports in Vietnam, petanque athletes do not have the conditions to make extra income. All members of the team have limted time to work overtime to improve their income and only rely on the prescribed allowance.

Vietnam petanque team overcomes difficulty to compete at SEA Games hinh anh 4Members of the Vietnam petanque team mainly come from Hanoi, Dong Thap, Tra Vinh. (Photo: Minh Son/Vietnam+)

Petanque originated in Europe and first appeared at the 21st SEA Games in 2001 in Malaysia.

Petanque developed in Vietnam since the early 2000s and is popular in southern provinces. After 2007, the sport developed more strongly in the northern provinces and gradually was invested in a more professional manner.

Vietnam petanque team overcomes difficulty to compete at SEA Games hinh anh 5Petanque requires athletes to be skillful, mentally stable and smart to make judgment calls. (Photo: Minh Son/Vietnam+)

Currently, the sport has only two top tournaments each year including the national championship and the club championship.

Districts of Soc Son and Thuong Tin of Hanoi are considered as the "gold mines" of petanque. The regions possess many talents of Vietnamese petanque players, and annually also contribute many high potential young athletes./.