French aristocratic sport lures elderly villagers

Originally from France, croquet came to Vietnam over 20 years ago and has now become a favourite game of many old people in Xuan Bach village, Soc Son district, Hanoi.
In 1996, the People’s Committee of Soc Son district selected croquet as a way to help the elderly in the community improve their health. At that time, every village in Soc Son district had a representative who received free instructions on how to play croquet at the district’s sport centre. Nguyen Van Huan, chairman of Xuan Bach village association of the elderly, was sent to a one month-training course. 

Xuan Bach villagers play croquet in a 300m2 yard at the communitys culture house. Photo: Khanh Long / VNP

The elderly players are divided into two teams (each with five) and compete in a 30-minute match.
Photo: Khanh Long / VNP

The durable wooden mallets are made by the players themselves. Photo: Tat Son / VNP

About to hit a ball. Photo: Tat Son / VNP

Nguyen Thi Luong, 88, is one of the first croquet players in Xuan Bach village. Photo: Tat Son / VNP

Hitting a ball through the hoop. Photo: Tat Son / VNP

Doan Xuan Hoan, 75, grips the balls amid the cheers of team members. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Many croquet players are women. Photo: Tat Son / VNP

The game is suitable for the elderly. Photo: Tat Son / VNP

Croquet has become a favourite game for Xuan Bach villagers.

Gripping the balls to hit the rival’s ball to a disadvantaged position. Photo: Khanh Long/VNP

High focus of team members. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

The umpire of a match. Photo: Khanh Long / VNP


“Playing croquet is just like growing vegetables. It is good for health and fun at the same time. I play croquet every day, even in bad weather.” 
Nguyen Thi Luong, 88, member of Xuan Bach Croquet Club in Quang Tien commune, Soc Son, Hanoi.
Huan said after the training course, he approached other elderly villagers in Xuan Bach, encouraging them to play. At first, very few people were interested in this game because it was quite new. Gradually, more and more people got involved as they found this game suitable for older people. In 1998, elderly villagers founded their croquet club. Since then, croquet has become a major pastime for the people in Xuan Bach village. At present, the club has 14 members at ages ranging from 58 to as high as 88.

The rules for croquet have been adopted suitably for the Vietnamese. In the game, there are ten balls, five red and five white, which are numbered from 1 to 10. Each match has two five-player teams divided by the colour of the balls. Each player uses a wooden mallet to hit the ball through three hoops and then to a flag at the centre of the course.

Every afternoon, the culture house of Quang Tien commune grows noisy with exciting croquet matches of elderly players whose high sense of competition is strongly cheered by the audience.
By Tat Son, Khanh Long

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