From shining shoes to shining bright for the national team
HÀ NỘI — The road to success can have many twists and turns.
Just ask Tô Văn Vũ, the 28-year-old who is quickly establishing himself with the national football squad.
As a child, Vũ would walk the streets of Đồng Nai Province with his mother, shining shoes to earn a living.
Now it’s his football boots that are polished to perfection as he continues living the dream of a professional player.
“My football journey has been like a dream come true,” he said.
“When I look back at what I have done, it is incredible. I am lucky because I overcame many challenges to be a professional player.
“Thanks to football I escaped from poverty that I was stuck in throughout my childhood.
“Now, I am happy to have the chance to pursue my passion and contribute to football.”
Born in 1993 in Thanh Hóa Province, Vũ followed his parents to Đồng Nai Province for better life when he graduated from high school in 2011.
While his mother earned money as a vendor, Vũ supported his family as a shoe shine boy.
Mother and son worked hard to earn a living as they walked dozens of kilometres each day.
And as he crouched down cleaning shoes, Vũ would dream of his true love, football.
Eventually his big chance came.
He said: “When I was 20 my friend got me a trial at Đồng Nai FC who were scouting players for their U21 squad to compete at the national championship.
“I scored two goals in a trial match that day and after one week training with the team, I signed a contract.
“I was different than all my other teammates because I had not yet trained or practised with any team or football centre.
“I had no worthy rival in terms of physique in regards to technique, I was seven to eight years behind the others because at 20-years-old, I was late starting my profession.
“In the early days, I was really self-conscious because of my shortcomings. So I spent more time training by myself to sharpen my finishes and passes and strengthen my skills to control the ball.”
His hard work paid off, and in 2013 he got his chance with the first team of Đồng Nai FC playing in V.League 1.
He moved to Bình Dương in 2017 and three years later, he was named captain.
It was a remarkable change for the boy who once shined shoes for a living.
His next milestone came when he received the call to join the national squad.
“The news made me happy like crazy,” he said.
“It is the dream of any player but it is even bigger for a shoeshine boy who wants to be a footballer. But life sometimes does not go the way we want and an ankle injury forced me out of the team.”
Two years later he was named for the second time but did not make it to the first team.
“Coach Park Hang-seo saw my aspirations and said the door to the national team is open to everyone who does a good job. He encouraged me to strive for next time,” said Vũ.
Dream to come true
Bình Dương FC coach Đặng Trần Chỉnh echoes the South Korean’s words.
“Vũ has good physique, technique and speed,” said Chỉnh.
“He is also doing well in 1v1 duels. He can serve Park’s need for a strong winger in his 3-5-2 formula.”
Vũ, who can play as either a defender or midfielder, is one of the key players in the three-time champions’ plan. He was in the starting line-up in all 52 matches scoring eight goals and 10 assists.
Chỉnh added: “It is clearly that Park sees Vũ’s potential so he called him to the national squad.
“Vũ was called twice but did not make the final list. I told him to try his best next time.
“Playing in a team, players should share the same philosophy and have equal levels of technique, if not he would not be a suitable part of that team.
“I told him if he could manage his style more appropriately and simply, he would be a playmaker and definitely find his place.”
On Thursday, Vũ joined the national squad in Hà Nội for another training camp, and could not wait to show Park his strong progress and energetic will.
Vũ said: “The career of a player is short. I’d love to wear the national team jersey and I don’t mind vying for a berth. As long as I have a chance, I’ll give it my all.”
But one thing’s for sure, when he finally does pull on the national team jersey, it will surely mark the end of a remarkable journey from shining shoes to shining bright in Vietnamese football.
Europa League kings Sevilla beat Roma on penalties to win seventh crown
BUDAPEST — Europa League thoroughbreds Sevilla worked their magic yet again to beat AS Roma 4-1 on penalties on Wednesday and lift the trophy for a record-extending seventh time, handing Roma boss Jose Mourinho his first defeat in six European finals.
After an unspectacular match ended 1-1 after extra time, Sevilla ruthlessly punished the Italians in the shootout, with Gonzalo Montiel firing home the winning spot kick, just as he did for Argentina in the World Cup final against France.
The defender had missed his first effort but was handed a reprieve when Roma keeper Rui Patricio was adjudged to have come off the line too early and he made no mistake with his second, sparking jubilant celebrations.
Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou was their hero in the shootout, saving penalties from Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibanez while the Spaniards were flawless in their own execution, scoring their first four.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 AS Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini looks dejected as he goes to collect his runner-up medal. Photo: Reuters|
Sevilla, the undisputed kings of the Europa League, have now won all seven of the finals they have played in the competition, and are well-versed in the drama of the occasion, having seen their opponents score first in the last four finals.
It was a tense and ill-tempered affair from the start on Wednesday, with Roma defending deep with a five-man backline against Sevilla, who had almost 65% possession but were kept mostly outside the Italian’s crowded box.
The match was tetchy with referee Anthony Taylor dishing out 14 yellow cards, the most ever in a Europa League game, and playing almost 30 minutes of stoppage time in total.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 AS Roma’s Rui Patricio in action during the penalty shoot-out. Photo: Reuters|
Paulo Dybala gave Roma the lead from a counter-attack in the 35th minute but Sevilla then took control of the game and found the equaliser thanks to an own-goal by Mancini in the 55th minute.
Sevilla dominated the match after that but Roma had the better chances from counter-attacks and set-pieces, including a Chris Smalling header that hit the crossbar in the 10th minute of added time in extra time.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 Sevilla players celebrate after winning the Europa League. Photo: Reuters|
Sevilla maintained their incredible record in the competition after an otherwise difficult season.
Languishing in the bottom half of LaLiga for a large part of a campaign in which they fired two managers, Sevilla only rediscovered their form after exiting the Champions League.
Their run to the final saw them beat PSV Eindhoven, Fenerbahce and Manchester United before downing Juventus in the semis.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 Sevilla’s Gonzalo Montiel scores a penalty during the shoot-out to win the Europa League. Photo: Reuters|
“It was a Sevilla-style match. We have to suffer to win,” Lucas Ocampos told Spanish TV channel Movistar Plus.
“This is not easy. What we have with this competition is something that cannot be explained.”
It was the third consecutive Europa League final that ended in a penalty shootout.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 AS Roma’s Andrea Belotti and teammates look dejected after the match. Photo: Reuters|
The win means Sevilla will compete in next season’s Champions League despite finishing outside the top four in the LaLiga.
Mourinho had never lost a European final before Wednesday, having last year led Roma to the inaugural Europa Conference League title, becoming the first coach to win all the European trophies.
|Soccer Football – Europa League – Final – Sevilla v AS Roma – Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary – June 1, 2023 Sevilla players throw coach Jose Mendilibar in the air as they celebrate winning the Europa League. Photo: Reuters|
Losing was clearly a painful experience for the Portuguese who handed his runners-up medal to a fan in the stand after the presentation.
“That’s what I did, I don’t want silver medals. I don’t keep silver medals, so I gave it away,” he told Movistar.
Bolt desperate for impactful role in track and field
Usain Bolt said he is desperate to play a role in reviving the sport that made him a global superstar but has experienced something of a decline since his retirement six years ago.
The Jamaican, who dominated men’s sprinting for nearly a decade after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said he had found plenty to do to keep himself busy but was really keen to remain involved in sport.
“I spend my time doing a lot of family things, when it comes to track and field, not as much as I would want to but I still try and stay in touch with what is going on,” the 36-year-old told Reuters.
“I’m still waiting on a position from (World Athletics), I’ve reached out to them and let them know I would love to make a bigger impact in sports, as long as they want me to.
“We’ve been in talks but we’ll have to wait and see what comes around.”
Bolt added that he was aware his personality was a vital ingredient in the success of track and field during his era but thought he could see signs that athletes like U.S. sprinter Noah Lyles might be starting to fill the charisma gap.
“It’s going to be a process. After me, it kind of went down because of who I was as a person, and how big my personality was,” added the eight-times Olympic gold medallist.
“But I think over time it will be better. I think young athletes are coming up and I see a few personalities that are needed in sport, hopefully in the upcoming years it will change.
“Hopefully I can play a part and help the sport to grow.”
There was disappointment at the crowds for last year’s World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, but Bolt thought that next year’s Paris Olympics could be a special moment for the sport.
“Sometimes it’s all about where it is, America is not the biggest track and field place,” he said.
“I think Paris will be big, because it’s accessible and I know Paris always has a good team and good athletes over the years. So I look forward to that.”
After a decade of Bolt-inspired global dominance, Jamaica’s men have failed to win a single track gold medal at the last two World Championships.
At this year’s championships in Budapest, however, Bolt sees some promise of success in young sprinters Oblique Seville and Ackeem Blake.
“Last year, Seville came fourth (in the 100m) so I was very impressed. Also now there’s a young kid, Ackeem Blake, who is also stepping up. So I think that’s a good start,” the 11-times world champion said.
“Hopefully these two will motivate other youngsters to want to step up, and want to train harder and dedicate themselves.”
Jamaica are still dominant in the women’s sprints and Bolt said he would be keeping a close eye on compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the World Championships in August.
Fraser-Pryce, also 36, will be seeking a record-extending sixth world 100m title in Hungary, 14 years after making her debut in the global showpiece of track and field.
“I follow Shelly a lot because we came through the same era so to see her continue sprinting and coming back from having a child, that’s impressive,” said Bolt.
Vietnam to play int’l football friendly against Syria next month
Vietnam will face Syria in an international friendly next month in preparation for their 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualification campaigns, the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) announced on its website on Monday evening.
The Vietnamese national football team, ranked 95th in the FIFA world ranking, will host Syria, in the 90th position, at Thien Truong Stadium in northern Nam Dinh Province on June 20.
They see this as a valuable opportunity to sharpen their skills, considering Syria’s slightly higher global ranking.
The presence of renowned coach Hector Cuper leading the Syrian team also adds to the significance of the occasion.
The seasoned 65-year-old coach previously managed well-known European football clubs such as Valencia, Inter Milan, Real Betis, and Parma.
Prior to taking charge of the Syrian national team, he had coaching stints with national teams such as Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Congo.
Five days before the Syria match, Vietnam will play Hong Kong in another international friendly game, which will also be their first since the appointment of new head coach Philippe Troussier in February, at Lach Tray Stadium in northern Hai Phong City on June 15.
In anticipation of the games in June, the Vietnamese national football team players are scheduled to regroup on June 7.
Previously, the VFF announced that Vietnam will play two more international friendlies in September and October this year before two matches in the 2026 World Cup and 2027 Asian Cup qualifiers, taking place on November 13 and 21, respectively.
Vietnam’s opponents for these matches will be determined following a draw in July.
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