HÀ NỘI — When Hà Đức Chinh was a small boy growing up, his family could not afford to buy him a football.
Instead, he had to make do with one made by his father from banana leaves and waste paper, held together with string.
Chinh loved that make-shift ball, and as a child, could be seen kicking it around the rice fields in the mountainous province of Phú Thọ where he lived.
Fast forward to today, the Mường ethnic minority player now represents his national team and is a key member of coach Park Hang-seo’s World Cup qualifying squad.
Sadly for Chinh, his club form with SHB Đà Nẵng hasn’t quite been replicated on the international stage, and despite banging in the goals for youth teams in the past, he is struggling to find the net for the national team.
But this hasn’t deterred the 24-year-old from setting lofty targets for the rest of his career.
“Sometimes the pressure playing for the national team can be intense, but it also makes me stronger,” said Chinh.
“Whenever I’m faced with difficulties, coach Park is always there to encourage me.
“He often told me that I could do it and said picking me for the national team means he believes in me.
“He asked me to be stronger to do the tasks he has set and he will wait to see me shine.”
At just 10-years-old, those around Chinh could see his potential and he was picked for both his school and provincial teams.
A turning point came in 2012 when he played in a national tournament for children and caught the eye of scout Trần Minh Chiến.
“I was persuaded by his abilities with his first touches on the ball,” said former national forward Chiến of PFV Football Training Centre.
“He made me change my decision, I decided to pick Chinh, a striker, instead of a midfielder as planned.
“I appreciated his form, I liked his teamwork playing style and I saw his potential from his high jump and headers and his confidence in the penalty area.
“Even watching him all those years ago, I imagined the day would come that he would play for the national team.”
Chinh joined the footballing centre several weeks later but faced many challenges to integrate with the new environment, new teammates and the professional coaches.
He said: “There was nothing I could do to make me standout among the other young players.
“I did not even know how to play in a team of 11 players. I did not know how to run without ball or to move and choose the best positions.”
But his perseverance paid off, and after a year of hard work, he finally began to shine.
Chiến added: “He came to us three years later than some of the other players at his age, but it took him only six months to catch up.
“He progressed quickly and I was really pleased with his development and determination.”
Wearing a PVF jersey, Chinh played in and won national tournaments at under 15, 17 and 19 levels.
He was a vital player in the silver medal success at the AFF U19 Championship in 2015 where he scored seven goals.
He was first call to the national team to win the AFF U19 Championship silver in 2015 where he scored seven goals and was the top scorer.
He represented the national team at the FIFA World Cup U20 in South Korea and was part of the squad that finished third at the M-150 Cup of Thailand with the U23 side in 2017.
In the domestic league, despite his lack of experience, Chinh has been key player of V.League 1 side SHB Đà Nẵng since 2017 with 23 goals to date.
His performances won coach Park Hang-seo’s trust for the Asian U23 Championship in 2018 when the team made an important milestone in history with a silver medal and were welcomed home as heroes.
Also that year, Chinh and his teammates won Việt Nam’s second regional AFF Cup after a decade and secured fourth place at the Asian Games, the highest ever position in this competition.
In 2019, he was with U22 Việt Nam side that won the Southeast Asian Games title for the first time in their history.
“It was my biggest event to date,” Chinh said.
“Coach Park told us that we must do our best and good results would come.
“At that time, I did not believe him, but he was right we reached the final.
“I remember before the game seeing the snow falling and I thought, I’d never actually played in the snow before!
“And although we lost, we played a great game, and we only lost by conceding in the last few minutes. It was an amazing tournament and I never imagined we would go so far.”
Silver wear did eventually come at the 2018 AFF Cup.
“It was difficult to describe my feelings when we won the trophy,” he said.
“It was my first title at national team level in an official tournament.
“I was, we were, all very, very happy. We were all speechless and could only express our feelings through gestures, smiles, laugh and hugs.
“The 2019 SEA Games was a memorial competition. I did good job, fulfilling task that coach Park assigned me with eight goals that made me a best scorer of the tournament.”
Despite not scoring for the first team since 2017, he is still a key member of the squad.
Pundit Ngô Quang Tùng pointed out that coach Park has limited options upfront, and while he may be struggling to find the net, Chinh’s overall contributions to the game validate his inclusion in the squad.
Although not a regular starter, Chinh says he will continue to work hard for the good of the team and do his best to pursue his coach to pick him in the starting eleven for the next World Cup qualifiers in November. — VNS
20-year-old Vietnamese rookie outperforms foreign veteran player in Game 37 of VBA
Bui Anh Khoa has not spent too much time on the court this season, but the rookie made a strong showing in Game 37 when he shut down 2.06-meter-tall veteran Mike Bell of Hanoi Buffaloes.
David vs. Goliath
Khoa, 20, transferred to Ho Chi Minh City Wings from Cantho Catfish after VBA Draft Day 2021.
Though he has played in several amateur basketball tournaments, the VBA Premier Bubble Games – Brought to you by NovaWorld Phan Thiet has been his professional debut.
In Game 37, Khoa substituted for Makinde London.
Though Khoa was originally told to play defense, he had no issue moving the ball down the court and scoring against Mike Bell, who is not only 20 centimeters taller than him, but also far more experienced.
Khoa’s surprising play was just the morale Ho Chi Minh City needed in order to protect their narrow lead against the Buffaloes.
Passion for the sport
Before Khoa, London seemed to be Bell’s biggest rival on the court.
The 25-year-old foreign player of Ho Chi Minh City Wings chalked up 31 points and 14 rebounds, helping the Wings defeat the Buffaloes in their previous second encounter.
Basketball experts commented that, while Bell was the 2018 and 2019 VBA Best Defensive Player, young players in the league are gradually making a name for themselves.
|Ho Chi Minh City Wings’ Makinde London scores despite a strong defensive effort by Hanoi Buffaloes’ Mike Bell in Game 37 of the VBA Premier Bubble Games – Brought to you by NovaWorld Phan Thiet. Photo: VBA|
New faces join women’s futsal squad ahead of SEA Games
HÀ NỘI — The national women’s futsal team will begin training on December 5 in preparation for the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hà Nội next May.
Coach Trương Quốc Tuấn has announced a list of 22 players who will meet in HCM City for the tournament. Most of them are from HCM City teams while the rest are from Hà Nội, Hà Nam and Thái Nguyên.
Apart from several seniors such as Trịnh Nguyễn Thanh Hằng, Nguyễn Thị Châu and Lê Thị Thùy Linh , the rest of the squad is made up mainly of new comers.
“Some of my experienced players retired or moved to other jobs,” Tuấn said.
“Some others have not recovered from injuries while some of them are training with the national football team in Hà Nội, so I have to name new faces. In the next seven weeks, the coaching board will review the list and test all players, especially those who we have called up for the first time.”
Tuấn said due to the challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, he struggled in selecting his players as they were unable to take part in tournaments because of social distancing.
Tuấn also said the COVID problems also prevented his players from taking part in training courses and friendly matches which are necessary to sharpen skills.
He is planning to set up matches against young male clubs in HCM City.
Tuấn added: “HCM City is still in a complicated situation caused by COVID-19. Therefore, players will train and compete in the bubble concept at the National Sports Training Centre No 2. They will be tested before joining our camp and regularly tested when we are together.
“We will also keep in contact with clubs to find suitable teams to organise matches for players. Through those matches, we will adjust our formations.
“Việt Nam will be hosts of the 31st SEA Games so we want to ensure good results on home soil.”
Việt Nam placed second at the 29th SEA Games held in Malaysia in 2017.
Rafa the gaffer needs cash to splash
On November 28, 2007, Liverpool FC supporters organised a protest march in support of Rafa Benitez, their manager at the time, amid growing concerns and mistrust of the then club’s owners.
The demonstration was ahead of the Champions League match against Porto at Anfield.
One strong memory I have of that protest is an image of a fan carrying a huge picture of Benitez in an elaborate gold frame, akin to what you would see on the streets of Iran in support of their Ayatollah.
I’m guessing that the photo was probably taken from the wall of his living room, where I reckon the image of Rafa dwarfed his wedding photograph.
That particular fan took the framed image from above the mantelpiece and brought it to the game to show his support for the Spaniard. That’s just how much Rafa was loved at Liverpool.
Fans were terrified Benitez would get fed up with the club’s hierarchy and walk away, which ultimately he did.
Rafa had led Liverpool to two Champions League finals, winning one, and had taken Liverpool back to being genuine title contenders.
He had worked wonders with a relatively small budget compared to the likes of Chelsea at the time. Rafa the gaffer was, quite simply, idolised.
Now he plies his trade at Everton, the other club in the city, and in the early hours of Thursday morning, he faced his former employers and the fans who once adored him, for the first time as Everton manager.
Liverpool destroyed Everton by four goals to one, and at the end of the game, as the boos rang out from those Everton supporters who were still left in Goodison Park, Rafa looked a broken man.
After a promising start to the season, Rafa’s honeymoon period is well and truly over. That’s now eight games in a row without a win.
The general consensus among Everton fans is that their anger is directed at Everton’s board and their director of football rather than Benitez himself.
That said, Everton fans would have been seething to hear their rival supporters chanting the name of their former boss as Liverpool cruised to victory.
Everton have some serious, serious problems.
At one point in the game, just after Mohammed Salah had put the visitors two goals up, some home supporters began to leave the ground. There were only 20 minutes gone.
In the last summer transfer window, apart from a few frees, Everton only spent around US$2,000,000 bringing in Demarai Gray. In the previous transfer window, they spent around US$100 million. Go back to the one before that and it was US$150 million.
Almost US$50 million of that was spent on Alex Iwobi, an unused substitute in their derby defeat.
Money clearly not well spent.
But other than the cash for Grey, Benitez hasn’t been given a penny to spend. The Everton board financially backed, and then sacked numerous managers before Rafa.
Now it’s the Spaniard who is paying the price.
If Everton are serious, they must find many more millions and give them to Rafa in January. He has to put his own stamp on the team before he can be judged.
But if they don’t, then I think he too will walk, and there will be no elaborately framed photographs of Rafa adorning the walls of the homes of Everton fans.
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