In a story that is repeated every four years, Vietnamese fans are biting off more than they can chew while betting on World Cup games, and things go downhill from there.
In the cases sampled here, people have lost neighbors, luxury phones and peace of mind to the extent that some have been driven to attempted suicides.
Stealing an ambulance
After repeated losses in World Cup gambling, Nguyen Minh Ho, 38, left his hometown in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang for Ho Chi Minh City to avoid his creditors.
But life did not get easier in the nation’s biggest city, nor did it solve his problems. With no money and no life, Ho had to wait in line for charity meals. Early in the morning of June 24, when he was waiting for such a meal at a hospital in Binh Tan District, Ho noticed an ambulance in the yard with its key in the ignition.
He decided to take the vehicle and flee, his only thought being to sell it somehow and pay off his debt.
Not long after, he was caught at a toll station not very far from the city.
Bloody, neighborly spat
Tong Van Hung, 35, in the central province of Quang Nam was wondering if the final score of the match between Russia and Uruguay on June 25 that he’d heard was accurate, so he came to his neighbor, Phan Chi Cong, for confirmation.
When Cong told him a different score, Hung got angry and accused his neighbor of lying. The conversation escalated into violence with Cong hitting and stabbing Hung.
Tong Van Hung at the Quang Nam general hospital. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Hiep
Hung was treated at the provincial hospital and is out of danger, but it is uncertain whether he can enjoy the remaining matches with the physical pain he has to endure, not to mention the bad blood established with his neighbor.
Driven to suicide
Doctors at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City saved the lives of two men on June 27 after they consumed pesticides to kill themselves. The reason was the same: losing World Cup bets.
A 47-year-old man, whose name was not revealed, was found by his family members shortly after he’d consumed the poison, while the other, 34, had second thoughts and asked his family to take him to the hospital. Their hospital stays might have led them to miss some games, but there is no information on whether they have the stomach to gamble again.
In another case, a young man was saved by marine police after he jumped down from a bridge across the Cam River in the northern city of Hai Phong on July 8. He jumped despite efforts by his father (on the phone) and many passers-by to dissuade him.
But after jumping down, he tried to save himself, and thankfully, the police arrived just in time. People close to the young man said he had watched the quarterfinals of the World Cup and learnt he was deep in debt.
Red card after three in a row
A 62-year-old man in Hanoi was taken to the hospital on June 19 after he stayed up all night watching three World Cup games in a row.
Doctor Phan Thao Nguyen at the E Hosptial, a general public facility in the city, said the man already had a cardiovascular problem, and did not have the heart for such prolonged excitement.
Sell luxury, buy ordinary
From a few days after World Cup 2018 kicked off until now, one common scene at cell phone stores in Ho Chi Minh City is that many people have visited them to sell their luxury smartphones.
On June 27, a man came to a shop in Binh Thanh District to sell an iPhoneX for VND20 million ($866). He bought a used iPhone 6 at VND3.5 million. He told VnExpress that he needed the money to settle a World Cup bet that he lost.
A few days later, within one hour, three people visited a shop in District 1 to sell three luxury Galaxy smartphones, and one of them bought a much cheaper phone. All three had bad luck with their World Cup bets.