|Overseas Vietnamese midfielder Andrey Hungovic Nguyễn (right) of Hải Phòng seen in training. Photo zing.vn
HÀ NỘI — It's often said, fairly or not, that footballers aren't the brightest bunch, but Andrey Hungovic Nguyễn breaks the mould.
The overseas Vietnamese midfielder, known as Nguyễn Anh Hùng in Vietnamese, chose the beautiful game over a potential high-flying career in aviation engineering.
Though he joined V.League 1 club Hải Phòng last year, Nguyễn is still something of an unknown to Vietnamese football fans.
The 22-year-old was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. He has a Vietnamese father and a Russian mother and as a youngster, passed the entrance exam to Moscow Aviation Institute and played for the institute's football club.
“I studied maths and physics at the institute. In my third year, I left because I always wanted to be a professional footballer. My family wanted me to follow my father's career, which was to be a pilot or an aeronautical engineer, at least a career associated with aviation, but I couldn't. Football has been my dream since I was born," said Nguyễn.
Nguyễn started football training at the Mosvkovich club from the age of six. He and his teammates won the children's football championship four years running and he won the best player award in 2009 and 2011.
After that, Nguyễn moved to Orbita club and joined the amateur football league in Moscow, winning three championships.
In 2015, Nguyễn decided to return to Việt Nam to seek a career in the game but was unsuccessful.
Returning to Russia, Nguyễn graduated from high school and studied at the Moscow Aviation Institute and was selected for the school's football team while still training and playing for Orbita.
Although he lived in Russia, Nguyễn keenly followed Vietnamese football and still harboured dreams of playing in Việt Nam.
Those dreams came true when Hải Phòng signed him.
Adventure in V.League 1
Though he joined the northern port side in July 2019, Nguyễn had to wait nearly a year to make his first appearance in the national premier league in the match against Sài Gòn FC on July 5.
Although his side lost by two goals to nil and his debut performance was largely unremarkable, just getting on the pitch was great encouragement for Nguyễn.
“Nguyễn is making progress and is in plans for the future,” said coach Phạm Anh Tuấn of Hải Phòng.
Life off the pitch in Việt Nam has plenty of surprises to Nguyễn.
“Things were difficult during my first time in Việt Nam. It took a few weeks for me to get familiar with the Vietnamese climate after the winter in Russia. I didn’t have many problems with food, I just don't speak Vietnamese. I was very surprised by the life of professional players. It was fortunate that my coach and teammates helped me gain the confidence to train physically and learn tactics,” said Nguyễn.
Luckily, Nguyễn also received support from his teammates, especially two other overseas Vietnamese footballers in the team, Adriano Schmidt and Martin Lo.
“They help me a lot, both in work and in life. Martin Lo is my brother, teacher and translator in Việt Nam. He helps me understand the head coach's tactical plans, which have many specialised words that cannot be expressed in body language,” said Nguyễn.
Nguyễn said he is learning Vietnamese to compete well in Việt Nam.
Hải Phòng have some history with overseas Vietnamese players and Nguyễn's fellow Russian-Vietnamese goalkeeper Đặng Văn Lâm rose to stardom at the club.
“Like every football team in the world, Hải Phòng have many advantages to create conditions for players like me. When I first saw Hải Phòng fans, I felt their love for the team. I will strive step by step to learn and cement my position at the club,” said Nguyễn. — VNS