Third annual “Turtle Football Cup” held at Dong Mo Lake, Vietnam

From the 6th -7th October 2012 The Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo together with the Youth Union Department of Kim Son commune organized the third annual Turtle Football Cup in Dong Mo stadium of Nghia Son village, Kim Son commune, Son Tay district, Hanoi. The annual event is organized to promote awareness and conservation of the critically endangered Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), a species of which only four individuals survive worldwide, one of which is known to occur in Dong Mo Lake.

This year 8 teams from villages around Dong Mo Lake participated in the “Turtle Football Cup” to promote conservation efforts for this legendary turtle species. One team of special significance is comprised of local fishermen who work daily on Dong Mo Lake and therefore whose actions directly affect the environment in which the turtle lives. Their participation in the tournament, which also highlighted different conservation needs for the turtle in Dong Mo, will hopefully create a safer environment for the turtle as the fishermen are now more aware of the importance and conservation needs of the species.

Despite heavy rain on the opening day, hundreds of people still came to the stadium early to cheer on the players and show their support. Before the tournament started an opening ceremony introduced the famous Dong Mo turtle and its plight before a group of local dragon dancers performed to create a festival atmosphere to the start of the matches.

Quote from player: Nguyen Huu Quyet from Nghia Son village “Despite the rain it has been very exciting to be here with a lot of good teams. Now we understand more clearly why we should protect the Hoan Kiem turtle in Dong Mo Lake. We caught too many turtles in the past because of the lack of information and we regret that.”

Right from the kickoff some stronger teams quickly set themselves apart with rapid goals in succession, 13 in the highest scoring match. In the second day of play some matches were forced into penalty shoot outs after extra time saw no team take the lead. In the final the Kim Tan youth team defeated the team Kim Chung village by 2-1 after a close and hard played game to became the champion of the 2012 “Turtle Football Cup”.

Quote from player: Pham Xuan Toai – a player from the fishermen team

“Although we lost, we are still happy because we gave it our all and played not only for the audience but also for our team’s solidarity and health. I want to say thank you to the ATP for bringing us together at this meaningful competition”.

After the event, Mr. Nguyen Van Mong, Deputy Chairman of Kim Son commune, gave a speech, saying: “We truly appreciate this meaningful Football Cup. It is an opportunity for our players to improve their own health and to entertain the audience with exciting matches. Because of this competition, we have learned about the current threats to the Hoan Kiem turtles and hence, we can identify how we can protect the species in the future.”

The dedication of all players and the audience made this event a true success. This tournament, and the boat race which is taking place next month on the Dong Mo Lake, serve as examples for us to hold other events like this at a larger scale in order to encourage people to the Dong Mo turtle.” – said Mr. Pham Van Thong, ATP officer and organizer of the event.

Press release by: Pham Van Thong – Rafetus Project coordinator

9th October 2012

Thank you:

 We would like to thank all people those who have supported our work and the Rafetus swinhoei Project The Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF). As well as local partners and agencies, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), and the Youth Union of Kim Son commune who helped organized this success event.

Image library

Above: Banner designed for the 2012 Dong Mo turtle football cup

Above: Players scrambled for the ball in a match between Kim Chung village and Kim Tan village

Above: The Rafetus swinhoei was rescued and released to Dong Mo Lake in 2008

Above: Despite rain over 500 spectators came to watch the final

Above: The Dragon dance team gave a festival atmosphere to the opening matches

Above: The Kim Tan Youth Team were victorious in the 2012 Turtle Football Cup

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