When a World Cup season starts, it's time for wives to do everything possible just to make sure their husbands watch the games within their sight.
The wives in our neighborhood often worked together. They brought the TVs to the sidewalk, cleaned the street and prepared enough beer and food for their husbands.
And every night, when we watched a match outside in our comfy seats, our wives would do the washing and cleaning and take care of the kids. But if they heard us cry out "Dzo!" aloud, they would immediately run out to see what happened. Of course we did this whenever a goal was scored, or just to say cheers as we drank the beer.
These nights produced many funny stories.
The first story.
One of the wives decided to break the habit. One night she brought the chair outside and sat next to her husband. He was surprised. "What is this about?" he asked. "The handsome Beckham is playing, so I have to watch," she replied calmly.
During the game, every time Beckham got the ball, she stood up and cheered. Every time he made a shot, she jumped up and down in excitement. The husband was not happy with all the cheerleading. He threw her angry glances and made hissing sounds.
Then Beckham got a red card and had to leave. "Ha ha, I knew it," the husband laughed. "Kick him out. Beckham huh? Poor you Beckham, your lover gave you bad luck."
"Lover? Who?" she was puzzled.
"Who else is here?" he hissed.
The wife understood suddenly. She stormed back inside and did not come back for the rest of the game.
The second story.
Another wife loved Roberto Baggio and she only watched games that he played. It was the first match of the 1998 World Cup, between Italy and Chile. Italy was about to take a penalty kick.
Suddenly, her husband stood up and held her hand. He dragged her inside the house. "You need to leave," he said.
After she went out of sight, he said her idol Baggio had missed the decisive penalty in the final of the previous World Cup.
That's because she loved him so much she haunted him, he said.
This time Baggio did not miss. "See. She left and he scored," the husband was thrilled. The wife, tired of waiting, walked out. She was livid because she couldn't see her beloved Baggio score. But she didn't say a word.
The third story.
This wife couldn't tell one team from another. But she would watch any game in which one of the team was in red, simply because red is the color of Vietnam's national team.
One night, the Portuguese wore red. She sat watching with us for a while, but then she was disappointed.
"Hong Son (famous Vietnamese footballer) is not playing. I don't want to watch anymore," she sighed and walked away.
Beer spluttered all over the place as we could not contain our mirth. When Vietnam can really make it to the World Cup, none of us would be alive. She was really naive.
The last story.
The fourth wife knew more about football than any other wives in the neighborhood. Just like her husband, she considered herself a commentator. Together they would take turns to talk about the game. The problem was they had different ideas. If he said yes, she would just say no.
On the same night that Baggio scored for Italy, the husband commented: "This 1-1 draw is a really meaningful score. Really meaningful."
" 1-1 is just 1-1. There's nothing meaningful in that," the wife disagreed.
"No? Let me show you. If I write the number 1 on your left thigh, and another 1 on your right thigh, which number will that be?"
"11," she replied quickly.
"Wrong," he said. "It's 101. Can you see how meaningful it is now?"
The wife knew she'd been upstaged. But it was not in her to give up just like that.
"Nice. My turn now. If I write the number 1 on each of your thighs, what number is that?" she challenged.
"Too easy. It's 111."
We laughed until it hurt and absolutely agreed with the answer. But she shook her head. "Wrong. I'm going to give you one more shot."
The husband thought he knew what his wife was getting at. "Oh I forgot. It must be 10101," he laughed.
That was really smart of him, we thought. But to our surprise, she still shook her head.
"Then what number is it?" the husband asked.
"Normally that would be right. But you are watching football every night like this, so it's only 1,1."
By Nguyen The Thinh
* Note: Vietnamese use the decimal comma instead of the decimal point.