Rising star: Châu Đoàn Phát poses with the national flag after winning a World Cup slot in May. — Photo courtesy of VFF
HÀ NỘI — “In our recruitment in 2011, we found an amazing talent. He had all the qualities of a good futsal player. We were lucky to discover him,” said coach Trương Quốc Tuấn.
Tuấn, who was then a scout of national futsal champions Thái Sơn Nam FC, is talking about Châu Đoàn Phát, a key player in the national team that will compete in their second FIFA Futsal World Cup later this month in Lithuania.
It was Phát who scored Việt Nam’s decisive goal at the World Cup play-off against Lebanon in May to qualify for the tournament.
Phát broke the deadlock in the 37th minute, dribbling past Ahmad Kheir El Dine before putting the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Hussein Hamdani.
Lebanon leveled the match with a close-range tap in 30 seconds later but the 1-1 draw was enough for Việt Nam to go through.
Phát has practised in Thái Sơn Nam FC’s training centre since he was 12. It was here that these talents were sharpened, and at 17 years old he was called up to and became captain of the national U20 team.
Under his leadership, the team won a berth in the quarter-finals of the Asian U20 Futsal Championship in 2019.
“His role in the team was important to coach Hecto Souto who was impressed and always gave him a spot in the official team,” said Đặng Đình Khang, assistant coach of the U20 team.
“His talent is really rare. It is very difficult to have a player who can play with both feet. He is, in general, better than all the other senior players. He looks nothing special but can do everything on the court.
“His goal in the Lebanon match clearly showed his perfect skills.”
His abilities won over national senior team coach Miguel Rodrigo who did not need to think twice to pick him in his squad the same year.
He is only person to make the senior squad at such a young age, and still the youngest in the national team
“He is a smart player. He always makes accurate decisions in attack, is really good at running with or without ball, and has a sharp finish. I really liked him at first sight,” said Rodrigo who took charge of Việt Nam in 2017-19.
Of the Lebanon goal, he added: "He made a brave decision and received a great bonus. It was not lucky but a world-class goal.”
After training at Thái Sơn Nam, Phát was loaned to Cao Bằng FC in the 2017 and 2018 season.
In 2019, he was called back to Thái Sơn Nam and won a bronze medal at the Asian Futsal Clubs Championship.
Phát is talented but has a strong personality, which landed him in trouble in 2017.
It was at the National Futsal Cup and Phát was paying for Cao Bằng when he used bad language and aggressively reacted in a match against Sannest Tourist Khánh Hòa.
He was sent off and banned from all competition for months.
“It was however a suitable rest for the young player who then came back stronger and better focused to become playmaker,” said coach Tuấn who is now in charge of the national women futsal squad.
Coach Khang believes that Phát has the talent but must improve his mentality.
“He sometimes lacks confidence. He sometimes dares not dribble the ball although he is good at it. In the play-off first leg, he was tense and could not play his best," said Khang.
“He is direct and impetuous. If he could manage himself a little he would be much better.”
Vietnamese striker Châu Đoàn Phát (left) vies for a ball against Spanish player Bebe during their friendly last week. — Photo courtesy of VFF
Talking about his impressive goal, Phát said it was a life-time winner.
“I am still on cloud number nine when thinking about it. It’s like a dream for me. When the match got to the end, I had netted the goal which allowed Việt Nam to compete in the second World Cup,” said Phát.
“It is great and I am very happy. It was the most important goal in my career.”
After winning trust from different foreign coaches, Phát also has it with current trainer Phạm Minh Giang who did not hesitate to choose Phát as a forward on his shortlist though faced many objections.
“It was great to play with experienced seniors. It was a big tournament but I did not feel nervous at all. I received my teammates’ and coaches’ support and strongly grew up,” Phát said about World Cup qualification.
“Big thanks to them, especially Giang.”
Giang truly believes in his 21-year-old scorer who is under his reign for both Thái Sơn Nam and the national team.
“I was not surprised with his goal because we had discussed the match and Phát had been training fluently and scoring,” said Giang. “He is fast and agile. I am convinced that he could make a break and he did. My belief was in the right person.”
Phát and his teammates have just arrived Lithuania after a 15-hour journey from Spain where they had intensive training and friendly matches against Japan, Spain and local clubs.
Việt Nam will play five-time champions Brazil on September 13 at the Lighthouse Arena in Klaipeda City. Their next rivals are Panama and Czech on September 16 and 19, respectively.
“I want to thank all people who have supported me and the national team through our journey so far. I hope that they will follow and give us more love for the stage ahead and coming success,” said Phát. — VNS