|Dream come true: Đặng Văn Lâm celebrates after Việt Nam won the AFF Cup on December 15 in Hà Nội. — Photo yan.vn|
By Thanh Hà
When the final whistle was blown, the Vietnamese ran to hug each other and a million people rushed onto the streets to celebrate Việt Nam’s second AFF Cup victory, but goalkeeper Đặng Văn Lâm walked back to goal, prayed, hugged the post and burst into tears.
They were tears of happiness from a man who struggled for a long time to reach success.
“I think when a person spends a lot of time trying to reach their peak it’s OK to cry. It’s like a burden has been lifted. I understand my son’s reaction. He’s lived by himself for eight years in Việt Nam and has struggled at times, but he’s never complained about anything. He wants to prove himself," said Đặng Văn Sơn, Lâm’s father.
Lâm was born in 1993 in Russia to a Vietnamese father who was a dancer and Russian mother who was an actress.
His passion originally came from his mother’s admiration for legendary Russian goalkeeper Lev Ivanovich Yashin. She gave her son the Russian name Lev Sonovich Dang.
He sharpened his skills at Russian giants Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow before deciding to settle in his father’s homeland.
Lâm flew home to Việt Nam in 2010 for a trial and signed a contract with former champions Hoàng Anh Gia Lai FC’s youth squad. One year later he was called up to the national squad to take part in the ASEAN U19 Football Championship.
Denied a chance to shine at Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, Lâm was tranferred to Hoàng Anh Attapeu FC in Laos on a loan deal in 2013.
In 2014, he was also loaned out to HCM City FC but after just a half a season he returned home to play for Rodina Moskva.
"I failed to progress during four years in Việt Nam, but I always believed I could become a professional player. I told myself that I had graduated from great clubs, I kept working hard and hoped to find the club for me," he said in 2017.
The young goalkeeper moved people in 2015 with an emotional post on Facebook about how he wanted to contribute to the U23 team at the 28th SEA Games in Singapore.
He wrote: "My biggest ambition at the moment was having a chance to test for the U23. Just one more time. If I am not qualified I will return home and never disturb anyone again. I was born in Russia but my father is Vietnamese. I have a Vietnamese passport, I can read and write Vietnamese. I have lived five years in Việt Nam. I was trained in famous training centres in Russia. I can’t just stand watching teammates practising."
His post reached then national coach Toshiya Miura, but he ignored the call.
However, the post was shared and lured Hải Phòng FC manager’s attention. Lâm then signed a contract with the V.League powerhouse, marking a turning point in his career.
Things were not easy for the young man who only got to play when their first goalie was injured.
Lâm just kept training and waiting for his opportunity.
As well as working with the team he found himself in the gym up to seven hours a day. He also tried to contact renowned fitness coaches such as Jason Brown and Nick Daves when they were invited to Việt Nam. He is the first athlete in Việt Nam to spend his own money to invite Jam Ashrapov, a fitness expert at Spartak Moskva, to Hải Phòng to be his personal trainer.
Lâm proved his talent by keeping three clean sheets in the V.League when he was given the opportunity to play.
|Shot-stopper: Đặng Văn Lâm seen in action during the AFF Cup semi-final against the Philippines. — Photo sport5.vn|
Lâm was first called up to the national team as third-choice goalie for an international tournament in Myanmar in June 2016. He later kept a clean sheet against Jordan in an Asian Cup qualifier in June 2017.
"I called my parents. They cried a lot. They could not believe that I had made it to the national team. Even I couldn’t believe it. My biggest dream had come true," said Lâm on laodong.vn.
From the bench Lâm has become the best goalkeeper of the 2018 season after conceding only 26 goals in 26 games.
“Lâm is the best goalie currently in Việt Nam. We are really lucky to have him in the squad. He’s saved us many times," said coach Trương Việt Hoàng of Hải Phòng.
Fitness expert Ashrapov said Lâm had a good physique and professional attitude, and had the potential to improve.
The 1.88m custodian started to gain a reputation, but failed to make Park Hang-seo’s squad to compete at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia in August.
"Everyone knows that my routine here is never easy. However it is my determination that drives me on. I told myself to strive harder and work better. I have the Vietnamese spirit and will never give up," he said.
Three months after that Lâm made the national team under Park who picked him as the No 1 keeper for the AFF Cup.
At his first major tournament Lâm set a record of keeping a clean sheet for 405 minutes. He conceded only four goals in total. With his contribution, Việt Nam not only became the champions but also the only undefeated team.
“The first time I came to Việt Nam wasn’t easy because life in Russia and Việt Nam is different, but I love this country the same as Russia and I’m trying to learn and do everything to have a good life in Việt Nam right now,” said Lâm in an interview with affsuzukicup.com.
Lâm, who was selected in the AFF Cup’s Best XI by Fox Sports Asia, also told the media that he would never rest, and many targets were still ahead. In sport, there are no ’yesterdays’.
In a letter sent to her son, Lâm’s mother, Jukova Olga, wrote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice but you did. The first time you were a brave 17-year-old boy. You overcame difficulties (in Việt Nam) to become a smart man. The second time in the same ‘river’ you are now a professional. Swim, my son. I will always support you. Congratulations and we wish you more success!”
The Russian mother also thanked family, friends, supporters and Hải Phòng FC who put their trust in her son.
“Thanks all of you and I really want to hug you all tightly because I am so happy with the win. Thank God for providing the chances for my son to grow up and show his talent in Việt Nam,” Olga wrote. VNS