Da Cau Vietnam's ancient 'foot badminton'

Vietnamese emperors and feudal kings often encouraged soldiers to play da cau to improve health for battles.

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In Hanoi, Vietnam's traditional da cau or "foot badminton" is often played on the street where it competes for space with other activities play

In Hanoi, Vietnam's traditional da cau or "foot badminton" is often played on the street where it competes for space with other activities

(AFP)
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Dusk and dawn sees Hanoi's leafy squares littered with devotees of da cau, Vietnam's ancient game of so-called "foot badminton" which endures despite the inevitable advance of football.

And it's not just the world's most popular sport that da cau enthusiasts must contend with: they also compete for space with people playing badminton, riding hoverboards or shaking their hips in a public zumba class.

But the da cau diehards say they are going nowhere.

"I do play football, but I find da cau more interesting," said Tuan Anh, who regularly leads a group of up to 50 people in central Hanoi at sunset.

The centuries-old game, which originated in China, involves keepy-up with a shuttlecock among any number of players for as long as possible, or knocking it over a net.

Though the game is enjoyed in public squares, it wasn't always a street affair.

Vietnamese emperors and feudal kings often encouraged soldiers to play da cau to improve health for battles, and to let off a little steam.

Da cau was also played to celebrate bumper harvests or traditional festivals.

Today it has become a national pastime, played by amateurs and professionals -- who dive and kick in spectacular style to keep the shuttlecock afloat.

Some say they are drawn to the cooperative spirit of the game, a way to unwind at the end of a long day at the office.

"Da cau is a team game. People play in clubs and teams, so it encourages teamwork and cooperation," said 24-year-old Nguyen Bich Hien, an employee at the Hanoi stock exchange.

"Going to the gym or walking, you have no companions, so it's not as much fun."

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