by Tao Jun, Tai Bao
HANOI, June 18 (Xinhua) -- In a well-known electronics store called MediaMart in Vietnam's capital city of Hanoi, after glancing at a 65-inch smart TV set discounted to 51.9 million Vietnamese dong (about 2,300 U.S. dollars), a middle-aged man swiftly opened his large wallet.
"We have already have a smart TV at home, but it is only 43 inches. We want a bigger one, even though the price is four times higher, to enjoy the World Cup to the fullest," Bui Van Huy, the owner of a metalware shop in the Thanh Xuan district, told Xinhua on Monday, after paying a pile of cash for the 65-inch TV set.
The man said he did not think of buying a new TV set until watching the first FIFA World Cup 2018 matches, including nail-biting games such as the 5-0 opener between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia, the 3-3 game between Portugal and Spain, and especially the 1-0 match between Mexico and defending champion Germany.
Like Huy, many locals have been willing to spend huge sums of money on large screen TV sets during the planet's biggest football tournament.
Representatives of many electronics superstores and shops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City said that after the Vietnam Central Television (VTV) announced on June 8 that they had acquired the rights to broadcast live all 64 World Cup matches, their TV set sales increased by around 30 percent.
Most of the buyers have been well-off families and owners of cafes and restaurants, they said.
During the month-long football tournament, TV set and projector renting services in major cities nationwide are also luring a lot of cafe and restaurant owners. Nguyen Trinh, who works for the Tat Thanh Company in Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Phu district, said her company is leasing 400 TV sets and projectors, mostly units with big screens.
"I have rented a 100-inch TV set for the whole month at a total charge of 60 million Vietnamese dong (more than 2,600 U.S. dollars). If I had rented it on a daily basis, I would have had to pay 10 million Vietnamese dong (440 U.S. dollars) a day," Le Van Thang, owner of Chieu Tim karaoke bar and cafe in Hanoi, told Xinhua.
Besides TV sets and projectors, replicas of the World Cup 2018 mascot, trophy, and jerseys of national squads and football stars are selling like hot cakes in Vietnam.
"Right after the VTV announcement, I quickly bought loads of cuddly toys in the form of Zabivaka wolf (official mascot of the 2018 FIFA World Cup), replica trophies, key chains, and jerseys, some of which are made in China. Last week, I sold around 30 products a day," Nguyen Quynh Hoa, owner of a fashion and souvenir shop on Hanoi's Hang Bong Street, told Xinhua on Monday.
Along Hanoi's Trinh Hoai Duc Street, well-known for housing many sporting goods stores, jerseys of 32 national teams currently present in Russia are hanging outside the shops. In a shop called To Ninh Ninh, a local woman and her teenage son were staring at the yellow-green jersey of the Brazilian squad, priced at 150,000 Vietnamese dong (6.6 U.S. dollars).
"I bet Brazil will win the World Cup," the boy told her mother, and then pointed his hand to a big Zabivaka wolf made from cotton costing 200,000 Vietnamese dong (8.8 U.S. dollars), saying, "Mom, buy that for my younger sister, please."
The shop assistant told Xinhua on Sunday that among jerseys, those of Brazil, Germany, France, Russia and Portugal are the best-selling, and their sales have tripled over the past few days.
"Cuddly toys and costumes in the form of Zabivaka wolf are also selling well," the shop assistant said, noting that Zabivaka wolf costumes can be hired (by restaurants and shops to attract customers) at a charge of 200,000 Vietnamese dong (8.8 U.S. dollars) per hour.
Small items bearing the images of Zabivaka wolf and national flags such as key chains, bags and hats, and Russian souvenir bank notes are also catching the attention of many Vietnamese people.
The Russian Central Bank has issued 20 million banknotes featuring legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin. The bill has a face value of 100 rubles (1.6 U.S. dollars), and sell for about 6 U.S. dollars in Russia, but in Vietnam, they now sell for between 500,000 and 700,000 Vietnamese dong (22-31 U.S. dollars), a Vietnamese shopkeeper said.
Another popular World Cup item but made totally crazy in Vietnam is the replica trophy. The real FIFA World Cup Trophy is made of 18-carat gold with a malachite base, and weighs 6.1 kg in total, but the replica is made out of plaster and painted in Bat Trang, Vietnam's most famous pottery-making craft village.
"Each day, my family sells around 1,000 replica trophies. We have just had to recruit more workers," Vuong Hong Nhat, owner of a pottery production base bearing his name in Hanoi's Bat Trang commune, Gia Lam district, told Xinhua. He said this seasonal product has been transported to many localities nationwide, including northern Hai Phong city, central Nghe An province, southern Ho Chi Minh City and even to Russia.
Another craftsman in Bat Trang, Tran Duc Hiep, said the replica trophy's wholesale prices range from 80,000 Vietnamese dong (3.5 U.S. dollars) to 100,000 Vietnamese dong (4.4 U.S. dollars) per unit.
Not only products, some services in Vietnam such as outbound tourism, cafes, restaurants and night food shipping services are benefiting from the ongoing World Cup in Russia.
According to many Vietnamese travel agencies, the numbers of customers, who booked tours to Russia in the first half of this month, doubled or trebled compared to the same period last year.
"We have offered 7-day and 9-day tours to Moscow and St. Petersburg at prices of 50 to 60 million Vietnamese dong (2,200-2,600 U.S. dollars). The tours have been fully booked," Ngo Thi Nga, director of Postum Travel Company in Hanoi, said last weekend, noting that the prices excluded tickets to the football matches.
However, not all Vietnamese people are excited about the World Cup. Some are complaining about noisy neighborhoods, drunk driving, underperforming staff and students due to sleeplessness, and, especially, illegal betting.
"During big international football tournaments such as the World Cup and the Euros, police always detect many betting rings worth many millions of U.S. dollars each in cities and provinces nationwide. Sometimes, those who lose bets have to sell their houses to pay their debt, and many bookmakers have ended up in prison," Nguyen Truong Son, a retired army officer in Hanoi, said with a sigh.
According to Vietnam's Penal Code, gamblers who make a bet of 2 million Vietnamese dong or more (88 U.S. dollars), and bookies whose ring has at least 10 people involved will be culpable.
If a bet is below 50 million Vietnamese dong (about 2,200 U.S. dollars), the gambler will be fined between 5 to 50 million Vietnamese dong and possibly given a jail term ranging from three months to three years. If a bet is more than 50 million Vietnamese dong, the culprit will be put behind bars for two to seven years.