The Local Game: Vietnamese futsal stars lead the way for footballers

June 01, 2021 - 09:09
Last Tuesday, the national futsal team qualified for their second World Cup in a row thanks to a 1-1 draw with Lebanon, also in the UAE.


The futsal players celebrate their historic achievement. Photo

Peter Cowan

In just over a week from the time of writing, the Việt Nam national team will be gearing up for their World Cup qualifier against Indonesia.

Coach Park Hang-seo’s men have three matches in the UAE to write their names in Vietnamese football history by making it to the third qualifying round.

The huge opportunity before them means captain Quế Ngọc Hải et al shouldn’t be short of motivation, but if they are looking for some extra inspiration, they could do worse than looking to their futsal counterparts.

Last Tuesday, the national futsal team qualified for their second World Cup in a row thanks to a 1-1 draw with Lebanon, also in the UAE.

To be totally honest, I can’t pretend to know a lot about futsal beyond the basics.

It’s played indoors with five per team, the ball is smaller and superstars like Neymar, Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves all credit playing futsal with enhancing their skills, but aside from that, I’m pretty clueless.

But you don’t have to be the Pep Guardiola (or Thomas Tuchel) of the futsal world to understand how the Vietnamese team came away with the victory.

Inside that gym in Dubai, every single member of the team put their bodies on the line time and time again to ensure their country came out on top.

I’m not going to break out in clichés here and (with apologies to Andy Townsend) I think both teams wanted it equally badly, but even watching from thousands of miles away it was clear to see that Việt Nam were going to do whatever it took to win.

Time and time again Việt Nam’s players flung themselves in front of Lebanese shots, determined to protect their net.

That might not sound like much to ask of a professional, but as a decidedly below-average five-a-side player who hits the deck more than a few times any time I grace a sports hall, it does take bravery and toughness to willingly subject yourself to that. Mind you, I’m guessing the Vietnamese team didn’t take to the pitch in the clutches of a two-day hangover.

Aside from good, honest graft though, the boys in white (as Việt Nam were designated the away team) showed a touch of the samba soccer magic more commonly associated with futsal through Châu Đoàn Phát’s sensational goal in the 37th minute.

Phát picked the ball up on the left and sent a Lebanese player for a proverbial hot dog before coolly slotting the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs and into the net.

Though Lebanon eventually found a way past the imperious Hồ Văn Ý in Việt Nam’s goal, it was never going to be enough to defeat the determined Vietnamese, who celebrated with a cheeky meal from KFC, something anyone who’s spent a Sunday morning sweating inside a sports hall can relate to.

The Vietnamese players and their coaches celebrate with some fried chicken. Photo Việt Nam national futsal team

So a battling, backs to the wall performance filled with perspiration and never-say-die attitudes, punctuated by a single moment of heaven-sent inspiration?

Sounds like a better recipe for a couple of big results next week than even Colonel Sanders himself could devise. VNS