Friendly match with Park Ji Sung a letdown

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Over 15 thousand spectators headed for Ho Chi Minh City's Thong Nhat Stadium to watch Manchester United's Park Ji Sung and his hand-picked team play a friendly benefit match on Wednesday.

Many in the stands appeared let-down by celebrity no-shows and a lackluster performance from the all-star football cast.

Ho Chi Minh City's V-League club, Navibank Saigon, seemed to be playing with all of their might against a visiting team (led by South Korean star Park Ji Sung) that appeared a bit sluggish, resulting in a 4-3 victory for the hosts.

Several things made the benefit match less exciting than expected. First, French left-fullback Patrice Evra, Park's teammate, didn't show up due to personal problems.

Second, Jong Tae Se, star striker from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (also known as the Wayne Rooney of Asia) played less than five minutes before walking off the pitch.

Park, the main character of the friendly match, played his usual position as central mid-fielder in the first half.

However, he dropped into left fullback position following the break - giving little hope for an exciting comeback. Park spent more time walking around than running and didn't launch many attacks, leaving the crowd fairly disappointed in a match that was ultimately designed to inspire young Vietnamese football players.

Except for the three goals scored by the all-star team, the visitors didn't perform like Asia's top stars.

To his credit, Hidetoshi Nakata, the retired Japanese player who once brought pride to Asian football by playing exceptionally for Italy's top-tier Series A club AS Roma, played well in the Wednesday match at Thong Nhat Stadium.

He was so skillful with the ball and made several neat passes to his teammates; but at 35 he had trouble running and was subbed out in the second half.

The low energy on the field left the crowd fairly quiet. Things got a bit more exciting late in the match, when the famous South Korean singer Kim Jun Su entered the pitch and played the final 20 minutes of the game - drawing cheers from the crowd.

However, host striker Quang Hai offered the most impressive performance.

Hai was the most prominent player on the field throughout the match and scored two of his team's four goals.

Speaking after the match, Park apologized for the absence of Patrice Evra.

"It made the match less exciting," he said. "Yet when we return for future friendlies, I will invite some of my teammates at Manchester United to come to Vietnam."

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