Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyễn Ngọc Thiện gives the Second-Class Labour Medal to coach Park Hang-seo. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam’s head coach Park Hang-seo has been honoured with the second-class labour medal for his contributions to Vietnamese football.
His two assistants Lee Young-jin and Kim Han-yoon also received Certificates of Merit from Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc at a ceremony held at the Việt Nam Football Federation (VFF) headquarters in Hà Nội yesterday morning.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of Culture Sports and Tourism, Nguyễn Ngọc Thiện congratulated the South Korean coach and his aides for the receiving the awards.
Thiện said that since Park came to work in Việt Nam, Vietnamese football had made great progress, starting with the runner-up of AFC U23 Championship 2018 which made history as a Vietnamese football's teams best-ever finish at an Asian competition.
“From that impressive start, Vietnamese football continued to impress when we entered the group of the top eight teams in the continent at the Asian Cup in 2019, then won the 30th SEA Games. Even more exciting, both Vietnamese men's and women's football team won the championship at one SEA Games,” said Thiện.
“In the second qualifying round of the 2022 World Cup in Asia, we hope Việt Nam will overcome, as well as achieve high results at the AFF Cup and SEA Games 2021 held in Việt Nam. I hope Park will continue his efforts to prolong the achievements of Vietnamese football,” Thiện added.
Park expressed his sincere thanks to the Party, State and Vietnamese people for awarding this medal to him, noting he appreciated it even more when he learned it was the first such medal bestowed upon a foreign sports coach.
"However, this is a medal where I am just representing all members of the team - who have worked tirelessly in the past time. I understand the meaning of the medal is recognition, encouragement and I also feel that I must have heavier responsibility for Vietnamese football," said Park.
He added that though the COVID-19 pandemic is raging and disrupting football the world over, now is not the time for the Vietnamese team to rest.
“I think this is not a time to sit still, but a precious time to find ways to make the team stronger," said Park.
"I will try my best to reap more achievements for Vietnamese football in the coming time," Park added.
A fan shows his love for coach Park Hang-seo. — Photo nld.com.vn
Way to Việt Nam
Vietnamese fans have great love and respect for coach Park because of what he has achieved on the pitch, but many don't know how close the VFF came to hiring someone else instead of the South Korean.
In 2017, Vietnamese fans were gutted with the team's group-stage exit from the SEA Games in Malaysia, despite having star players like Nguyễn Công Phượng, Lương Xuân Trường and Nguyễn Quang Hải in the team.
Head coach Nguyễn Hữu Thắng resigned after the 3-0 defeat to Thailand that sealed his team's fate, while the VFF's Vice President of Finance at that time was Đoàn Nguyên Đức who received criticism because he previously stated Việt Nam would win the gold medal thanks to the players from his club, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai.
At that time, the VFF and Đức met with Takashi Sekizuka to hire him, however, the deal broke down because the Japanese coach still had a contract with his club and he wanted to delay signing with the VFF until early 2018.
Fate brought Park to Vietnamese football as the VFF delegation turned their attention away from Japan to South Korea. Việt Nam had two choices including Park and current HCM City FC coach Chung Hae-soung, whose performance at the club level was much better than Park. However, the VFF selected Park.
Đức reportedly asked the key question when he first met Park: "In your opinion, if Vietnamese players are small but have good technique, what philosophy of football should they pursue?". Park replied: "I think the right style for Vietnamese players is small co-ordination and quick passing, based on technical background. If you can do it, it can bring success." And Park was hired.
Coach Park Hang-seo with young footballers. — Photo nld.com.vn
Highly entertaining football
In October 2017, on the day of his inauguration as coach of the Vietnamese team, Park read a long statement.
“I, Park Hang-seo, in this position, promise to dedicate all my accumulated knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to the Vietnamese football which selected me. My football style will be performed with both existing strengths and new differences,” said Park.
"Let's try to create a fun, comfortable, attacking and entertaining football. To win in the region is within reach. I will do my best to make a Việt Nam team who will be a team in Asian tournaments. The team I lead will bring a lot of joy to the audience," Park added.
The phrase "attacking and highly entertaining football" and ending with "I want the Vietnamese team to be in the top 100 on the FIFA rankings" quickly led to mockery from the media. Fans had been waiting for SEA Games and AFF Cup titles, ranking in the world's top 100 seemed long away.
However, Park soon made his detractors eat their words.
In nearly three years of leading Vietnamese football, Park has gone through 10 tournaments with a series of historic milestones.
Coach Park Hang-seo during the SEA Games last year. — Photo baogiaothong.vn
With talented players such as Đoàn Văn Hậu, Quang Hải, Đỗ Duy Mạnh, Trần Đình Trọng, Xuân Trường, Công Phượng and Nguyễn Văn Toàn, Park has led Vietnamese football to prominence in Asia.
Việt Nam entered the ASIAD 2018 semi-finals, the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup 2019 and currently lead Group G of the second qualifying round of the 2022 World Cup in Asia.
In addition, Việt Nam won the AFF Cup 2018 and SEA Games 2019.
With the guidance of Park, the football map of Southeast Asia has been redrawn, with Việt Nam pulling away from their bitter rivals Thailand over the last three years.
Coach Park Hang-seo seen in training. — Photo zing.vn
Finishing career in Việt Nam
Park shared with media after winning the historic SEA Games gold medal that he wanted to finish his career in Việt Nam.
"We do not have any special secret. The players fought like a united group. They play with the Vietnamese spirit and don't give up no matter the difficult circumstances. And in this boundless happiness, I know what my future wishes are. Yes, I want to end my coaching career in Việt Nam. After I no longer lead the team, I will help Việt Nam train young footballers," said Park. — VNS