Arsenal arrive in Vietnam to rapturous welcome

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English Premier League team Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (C) is mobbed by fans seeking autographs after attending a press conference in Hanoi on July 15. 

Hundreds of fans stayed overnight at the airport to greet English Premier League team Arsenal on arrival in Hanoi at 5 a.m. on Monday.

The Gunners will become the first Premier League team to play in Vietnam with a friendly match against the national team on July 17.

The match, which football-crazy Vietnamese fans have been eagerly looking forward to for several months, will kick off 7 p.m. at the 40,000-seat My Dinh Stadium in the capital city.

The English club players, wearing traditional Vietnamese non la (conical leaf hat), were greeted of hundreds of fans in Arsenal shirts. The fans, who had been waiting at the airport since Sunday night, sang the club's theme song and cheered loudly as the player disembarked.

More fans turned up at the hotel in downtown Hanoi, but tight security kept them away from the team bus.

Shortly after their arrival, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and midfielder Mikel Arteta attended a press briefing with Le Hung Dung, Vice President of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF).

Wenger said he and the team were looking forward to an interesting match against the Vietnamese national team.

"We are proud of becoming the first English football club to be in Vietnam, where Arsenal has a big number of fans," Wenger told reporters. "We will try to do our best for Vietnamese fans."

Asked when he thought Vietnam could compete at the international level, he said Vietnamese football was developing rapidly, especially the U-19 team.

In five or ten years, he expects Vietnamese football to gain high achievements thanks to the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Arsenal Jmg Football Academy.

Vietnam has many talented players and the important thing is to find a suitable coach, Wegner said.

At the briefing, Mikel Arteta said he did not expect that there would be so many fans welcoming the team at the airport at 5 a.m.

He said he was very impressed by the fact that many youngsters were playing football on the street since 6 a.m.

The team visited the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Mot Cot (One-Pillared) Pagoda after the press briefing.

Arsenal will be in Hanoi from July 15-17 as part of their Asia Tour 2013, covering Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan.

The club beat the Indonesian "Dream Team" 7-0 on Sunday.

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