From being Guus Hiddink’s assistant in the World Cup 2002, Park Hang-seo has come a long way and become the most successful manager in the history of Vietnamese football. Through various ups and downs, the 63-year-old South Korean coach has acquired a great deal of experience and valuable life lessons to pass on. Việt Nam News and Thanh Niên spoke with him to know more about his life in Việt Nam and how he finds working with Vietnamese players.
NICE GUY: Fans see Park Hang-seo as “charming” and friendly. Photo bongda.com.vn
Inner Sanctum: Given your success, is there anyone who deserves a special mention?
That can only be my wife Choi Sang-a. I was married at the age of 29, and my wife and I have been together for more than 40 years. As a coach, I barely have time to take care of my family. We have only one son. She takes care of parenting and everything else.
Whether in South Korea or Việt Nam, I sometimes lose my perspective. At such times, my wife is always there to give me advice on getting it back. I really appreciate what she does.
I don’t know if it’s because she has been with me for 40 years, but recently, when I came home, she occasionally asked me some hard questions about football.
“Was it wrong for you to do that?” she might ask, or “Do you feel guilty about doing that?”
There are times, of course, when she’s right, I feel that after 40 years with me, she finally understands football.
Inner sanctum: Many Vietnamese fans describe you as “charming” and friendly. What do you think about such comments?
I don’t think I’m that charming (laughs) and I’m not handsome either.
I have a very strong will to win, so I always tell the players to focus on their spirit to complete each task, even if it’s just training.
As a national team player, you must meet all of the benchmarks and we absolutely do not let our emotions interfere.
If it’s not related to work, I tend to be chill with the players and others, because they are the same age as my son and my brother, so I view daily life and the football field as being two completely different things.
I thank everyone for thinking I’m a friendly person.
Inner Sanctum: If you could turn back time and become a player like Quang Hải, Tiến Dũng, and Văn Hậu, who would you like to be? What is the most important thing about a football player?
It’s not about who I want to be. Even though the job is stressful, every morning when I see the players and their eyes, I feel energised and motivated. Every time I see the purity in their eyes, it relieves the pressure.
I don’t want to be like any other person. I just want to see players develop. As a player or as an ordinary person, on or off the pitch, the most important thing is to have dignity, as this will help them stand on their two feet against any temptation. Personally, I think it is important for football academies to work on dignity from the beginning of players’ careers.
WINNING WAY: With two major trophies -- at the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2018 and SEA Games 30 in 2019 -- Park hang-seo is the most successful manager in the history of Vietnamese football. Photo zing.vn
Inner Sanctum: What is your favourite Vietnamese food?
I always eat Vietnamese food with the players. I initially thought phở was eaten at all three meals, but then I found out it’s usually eaten as breakfast. I personally like to eat it for lunch. I also recently discovered a delicious new dish in Đà Nẵng and Quảng Nam: mì Quảng. I really want to find the best place to eat it in Hà Nội.
Inner Sanctum: Do you have any favourite football club? And do you want your players to follow that club’s style?
I watch the Premier League and La Liga, but I don’t apply the playing style from any team to my team, as I only want to maximise the strengths of Vietnamese players. Back when I was in South Korea, I conducted some research on Arsenal, and I now follow a young German coach called Julian Nagelsmann, who’s managing RB Leipzig, as they play with a three-defender formation. In England there is also Leeds Utd that I’m interested in watching, and I usually talk with my assistants about them. VNS