A Vietnamese backyard game to try

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Dá Cầu is a traditional Chinese sport that is popular in Vietnam.  Photo courtesy of    thethaovn365.com

Dá Cầu is a traditional Chinese sport that is popular in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of thethaovn365.com

Growing up as a kid, backyard games were an essential staple. From soccer, to t-ball to a simple pass of a basketball, frisbee, football….if you could pass it between at least two people or play by yourself, it was a backyard activity for the ages. 

As the weather becomes warmer and more people are getting outside, I’m intending on trying out and discovering new abilities that I may or may not possess. One of those goals is a vast improvement in foot maneuvering, which I found I actually wasn’t bad at while in Vietnam. Specifically, I discovered this while playing đá cầu. The equivalent of a hacky sack, although arguably more colorful, the shuttlecock has a rich history all on its own.

The shuttlecock is made of a hitting disk, washers (either of metal or plastic) and feathers. It was originally meant to keep soldiers entertained during the Han Dynasty in China during the second century BC.

This really is a Vietnamese obsession. Although it can never rival the Vietnamese’s obsession for soccer, it’s pretty high up there. 


Players must keep the shuttlecock in the air without using their hands.  Photo courtesy of    baomoi.com

Players must keep the shuttlecock in the air without using their hands. Photo courtesy of baomoi.com

The rules are really simple and are best with a group of at least two to three people: keep the shuttlecock in the air by any means possible without using your hands and don’t let it land on the ground. It’s a team effort that doesn’t have to be passed in a methodical way across a circle, although the arsenal of skills that you’ll come up with to keep it in the air will grow.

I’ve only barely mastered keeping it in the air with my foot, but I’ve seen people in the Vietnamese squares at dusk (it’s HOT during the day) using their elbows, knees and head. 

What’s great about đá cầu, as with all backyard games, is people of all ages can do it. You don’t have to go particularly fast, although being in the moment with the game might cause you to increase your speed. I’ve seen kids in elementary school age play đá cầu right next to older Vietnamese aunties and uncles. 

What’s a good backyard game-fest without some music? Here are three classic Vietnamese songs to really transport you to the country while playing shuttlecock:

  1. O My Ly

  2. Xoa Het

  3. Nguoi Yeu Dau

What’s your favorite backyard game that you’re going to be out there playing as the weather gets warmer? 

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Kimberly Nguyen is the associate digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.nguyen@uconn.edu.

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