Former midfielder of the national team and HCM City Trần Thị Kim Hồng now trains at the Ngọc Hùng Football Centre in HCM City. Photo ttbdngochung.com
by Lâm Giang
For many footballers, success on the pitch means sacrificing their youth and love lives, with nights out at bars and cinemas with a date replaced for early mornings on the training ground and long away trips.
However, former HCM City and national team midfielder Trần Thị Kim Hồng was a success on the pitch and in love.
"For a female player, getting married seems to be normal but it's always our desire because not everyone can experience the happiness of being in a couple," said Hồng.
As well as a glittering trophy haul, Hồng came away from her time in the beautiful game with a happy family.
“I’m happy with my small family. We will welcome our youngest boy next month,” said Hồng.
Hồng was born in 1985 as the youngest girl with seven siblings in a poor family in Tân Phú District in HCM City.
Life in poverty meant Hồng’s schoolwork was interrupted and everyone had to work to support the family. Hồng was no exception. She often helped her mother clean construction sites near her home to earn money.
At the age of 13, she began her love affair with the beautiful game and would sneak out with her sister to play football. Hồng would even cycle an hour from home to Tao Đàn Sports Centre in District 1, HCM City to play.
Hồng was small, but had stamina, speed and could already strike the ball like a seasoned pro.
After showing her talent, she was selected to the women's football gifted class of Tao Đàn Sports Centre.
“I selected this girl and I believed that she would one day show her talent,” said former head coach of the HCM City women’s football team Nguyễn Tấn Lợi.
However, Hồng’s mother was furious when she discovered that Hồng ran away from home to play football, as she thought there was no way she could earn a living playing football, so she forbade her from playing.
Scared but curious, Hồng continued to pursue football, hiding her passion from her mother.
“In 1998, when I started my career, I was given some money by my coaches and for the first time, I sent VNĐ500,000 to my parents. They were very happy,” said Hồng.
At the age of 17, Hồng made it to the HCM City first team and solidified her spot on the right-wing and won the 2002 National Sports Games with her side.
A year later, Hồng was called up to the national team and quickly became a starter.
“Football gave me a lot, things I never imagined when I started in the game. I won three gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games as well as many domestic prizes,” said Hồng.
With HCM City, Hồng helped her team win the National Women’s Football Championship in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2016.
She won the Vietnamese Golden Ball award in 2010, as well as three Vietnamese Bronze Balls in 2004, 2007 and 2008. She also won the best player award of the National Women’s Football Tournament in 2010.
Former midfielder Trần Thị Kim Hồng (left) trains with HCM City. Photo webthethao.vn
Beautiful love story
Hồng used to say: “We are female footballers, even our family members sometimes have prejudices and sometimes they are afraid to talk about our careers, not to mention other people. It is difficult to love girls who are all day in the sun and rain and often move everywhere like us.”
However, her life in football led to her meeting the love of her life.
Hồng trained at Tao Đàn Sports Centre and Đặng Phú Kiện was a handball athlete there. At the centre, they met and started texting and talking in 2007 and fell in love within a year.
“After that, Kiện asked me to come to his house to have an introduction with his parents several times, but I kept refusing because I was afraid his parents would not accept their daughter-in-law being a football player,” said Hồng.
Vietnamese Golden Ball 2010 Trần Thị Kim Hồng got married with Đặng Phú Kiện, a handball coach. Photo plo.vn
In 2009, when the Vietnamese women's team competed in the 25th SEA Games in Laos, Kiện took a two-day bus ride to Laos to cheer on Hồng without telling her he was coming.
That day, while training, Hồng heard her teammates say someone sat watching looked familiar so she looked up and was stunned to see that Kiện was watching her.
“That made me try even harder and together with my teammates, we brought home the SEA Games 2009 gold medal,” said Hồng.
In 2011, hearing that Hồng had torn her left knee ligament in the 2011 National Women's Championship in the northern province of Hà Nam, Kiện immediately went to Hà Nội and found his way to Hà Nam. For two days there, he carried Hồng to eat, to the training ground and the field before returning to HCM City to continue his work.
When Hồng was sent to Singapore for treatment, she recognised Kiện’s parents’ love for her.
“I did not expect that Kiện's parents would love me so much. When I went to Singapore for knee surgery in 2011, along with my aunt, Kiện's parents took good care of me while my parents were too sick to come, and Kiện had to play. His parents pushed me in a wheelchair all the time in the hospital, they even washed my hair. Seeing his parents sleeping across from me on a bed every night I wanted to cry," said Hồng.
After eight years knowing each other, the pair got married in 2015 where it all began; at Tao Đàn Sports Centre.
In 2018, Hồng retired and struggled to find a new job. However, she was lucky enough to have Kiện with her.
According to Kiện, integrating into normal life is tough for an athlete, so he always encouraged Hồng in the most difficult times.
At present, Kiện is head of the handball section of Tao Đàn Centre, while Hồng is a coach at the Ngọc Hùng Football Centre in HCM City.
In addition, the couple also has an online sportswear business. They might not have untold riches, but they have a stable life and plenty of time for their small family. VNS