Hmong sports tournament brings thousands together

Jamie VanGeest

Several University students joined thousands of people who competed in the Hmong Minnesota 25th International Sport Tournament last weekend in Como Park.

Event chairman Ka Houa Yang, vice president of the Lao Family Community, said he estimated as many as 25,000 people came each day last weekend to enjoy the games, food and atmosphere.

The main draw was the sports tournament, which featured teams from as far away as California and North Carolina playing tennis, volleyball, flag football and soccer.

The biggest event was the soccer tournament, which had more than 50 teams that filled up all of Como Park’s five fields for the entire weekend.

Ka Ying Vang, a University student, played flag football on the team named IDK, short for “I don’t know.”

This is the team’s second year in the tournament, and Vang said it’s like the Super Bowl for his team.

“Being able to play in front of such a big crowd definitely elevates our game,” Vang said.

His team won the first few games but lost in the semifinals. Despite the loss, Vang said he was very proud of his team’s performance.

Besides the sports tournament, the event is also a time for friends and family to unite.

When the Hmong immigrated to the United States, Yang said, they didn’t have much choice in where they ended up. This event is an opportunity for friends and family from across the country to reunite, he said.

Chia Cha came to Minnesota for the first time from Sacramento, Calif., to visit friends.

“Minnesota is so beautiful, and I am here to enjoy the sports and have fun,” Cha said.

Between events, people could enjoy an open-air market and food booths. At the markets and booths, they bought and carried cups full of sliced mangos covered in salt, pepper and fish sauce.

Another popular dish included the tricolor drink: a yellow, green and red drink that contains tapioca, coconut milk, caramelized sugar and ice, vendor Naly Hang said.

At the marketplace, event attendees could buy everything from traditional Hmong clothing to movies.

Many of the booths sold videos translated into Hmong, but Lee Xiong’s booth sold something different.

“We sell DVDs in Korean, Chinese and Indian; we are trying to reach the younger generation,” Xiong said.

Xioa Yang sold traditional Hmong clothing that was sent to her from a cousin in Thailand, she said.

“These are usually worn during weddings, or New Year’s,” Xioa Yang said.

Ka Houa Yang said this year’s festival was special because a large number of new Hmong immigrants have come to the Twin Cities this year, many from the Wat Tham Krabok refugee camp in Thailand.