Midfielder Đỗ Hùng Dũng trains with his club teammates during their preparation for the V.League 1 matches. — Photo zing.vn
HÀ NỘI — Đỗ Hùng Dũng had an incredible 2019, from getting married, having a son, winning Southeast Asian Games gold and winning the Golden Ball for the best Vietnamese footballer.
It hasn't always been plain sailing for Dũng though, as the midfielder has faced plenty of pitfalls while chasing his dreams.
Late but good
For a while, Dũng always seemed to be late to the party.
While kids began training football at around 11, he had to wait until he was 12 before his family agreed to let him pursue the beautiful game.
The boy who played football with friends on the pavement in front of his house in Hà Nội's Gia Lâm District quickly showed he was cut from a different cloth to other kids his age.
He caught the eye of coach Hoàng Giang of Hà Nội T&T (now Hà Nội) FC who suggested he pursue professional football.
His father did not agree and said his son should not choose such a difficult career.
Dũng, however, received strong support from his football fan mother who wanted to see her son play for the national team.
Dũng joined Hà Nội T&T’s training centre in 2005 but he was mostly stuck on the bench when the team competed in youth tournaments. Two years later he was sent home, seemingly a failure.
However, Giang believed in his young charge and tried to bring him back to football.
“Dũng was smaller than his teammates but he was a really good player in my eyes,” said Giang.
“I don’t know why but I tried to keep him with my team. I thought that the hard-working, responsible and caring boy would be much better in the future,” he said.
"He is a boy of discipline. He is also careful, economical and a timely player. These characteristics, I think, are key points to build a successful person.”
Dũng said: “I am not as talented as teammates at Hà Nội. I told myself to work hard every day to improve my skills. Working hard, determination and sacrifice for a purpose will bring good result.”
Gradually, Dũng made himself a key player in the club’s junior squad. But the route to the club’s first team was a challenge.
“My teammate (national team defender) Đỗ Duy Mạnh was called up to the national team when he was 19 and goalkeeper Bùi Tiến Dũng joined at 20. It was 2015 when I was 22 and struggled to find my berth in the first team. I thought the national team was someone else's story, never mine,” said Dũng, who was several times selected for junior teams but the national squad was a long way away.
“I think I have no special talent. I even had poor physique as I could only play up to 70 minutes before being exhausted and replaced.
“I tried to understand my body and found a suitable way of training to improve fitness.
“I placed myself beside the coaches to know what they want from us and what I have to do. That seemed to be why coaches chose me for the first team,” Dũng added.
He struggled for a place in the national team until 2018 when coach Park Hang-seo selected Dũng to the Olympic team as one of three over-23 players for the Asian Games in Indonesia.
His impressive performance persuaded Park to use him in the national team for the AFF Cup 2018 and Asian Cup 2019.
The SEA Games seemed to be the crowning achievement of his early career.
He was one of two over-age players selected to help Việt Nam win their first-ever title at the event in the 2019 edition.
“I am a lucky man. I still can play at this important tournament at that age,” said Dũng who was the captain of the team.
“It was an incredible event where we won and the title was a great present to my newly-wed wife and two-month-old boy,” he said.
Đỗ Hùng Dũng receives the Golden Ball statue from national head coach Park Hang-seo. — VNA/VNS Photo
Dũng also grabbed success with Hà Nội FC in 2019.
The team won all three local titles of V.League 1, National Cup and the National Super Cup.
The national champions also became the first Southeast Asian team to advance to the final of the AFC Cup’s Inter-zone final.
His contribution was enough to make him the winner of the 2019 Golden Ball for the most valuable player of the year.
“The statue shows people’s recognition of my performance. I am really happy because it is my first individual award and the best one in my career,” said Dũng.
“But I keep my feet on the ground and have been back in training. Hà Nội and I have targets for this season. We want to make history with the third time in a row winning the V.League 1. We have to defend our National Cup crown too. And with the national team, we will take part in the 2022 World Cup qualifier and protect our AFF Cup silverware.
“I also hope to have the chance to compete abroad despite my age. My dream destinations are Japan and South Korea. I believe I could learn something for myself when going out and bring the experience home for young players.
“I have made a 10-year plan. I will do what I do best and love most. It is surely football.” — VNS