‘Park Hang-seo fever’ engulfs Vietnam amid nation’s successful year in soccer
Dec. 20, 2018
Global Korean Post
ByPark Hye Ri, Yoon Sojung and Kim Minji
“Vietnam vo dich (victory)! Vietnam vo dich!”
The streets of Vietnam on the evening of Dec. 15 were overflowing with ecstatic soccer fans celebrating their nation’s victory in the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Suzuki Cup over Malaysia.
Led by their Korean head coach Park Hang-seo, the Golden Dragons claimed an aggregate 3-2 victory to hoist their first cup since 2008 at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi.
The title capped off a surprisingly successful year for the national men’s team, which finished second in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship and advanced to the semifinals of the Asian Games for the first time.
Appointed last year, Park was hailed as a national hero after leading Vietnam to the U-23 final in January. His popularity caught on like wildfire in igniting “Park Hang-seo fever” across the Southeast Asian country.
His blazing fame led to a documentary being made on his life and philosophy titled “Park Hang-seo – The Inspirer,” which was released on Dec. 14 in Vietnam.
The intensity of Park mania in Vietnam is in stark contrast to how his tenure began, with both the Vietnamese media and public initially expressing doubt and skepticism over his hiring.
The Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) hired him in late September last year despite public opinion showing a negative attitude toward his appointment and many questioning his talent as a coach.
Despite the criticism over his appointment, Park instilled high confidence into the Golden Dragons and helped them win the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time since 2008.
Many reports described Park’s leadership style as that of a father figure, with a humility that won over the Vietnamese people. For example, he allowed injured midfielder Do Hung Dung to sit in the coach’s business-class seat while the team flew to Malaysia and gave foot massages to his players. Park thus formed a strong bond with and raised the morale of the squad.
In a Dec. 16 news conference for Korean media hosted by the VFF, Park said, “It’s so rewarding to succeed overseas. I’m so glad to help raise through soccer Korean-Vietnamese ties in areas like the economy and politics.”
President Moon Jae-in also hailed Vietnam’s Suzuki Cup victory and Park’s contribution to that result.
Through his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts on Dec. 16, the president posted the message, “I witnessed the moment when both Vietnam and Korea became closer friends when I saw (Vietnamese) fans wave the national flags of both countries.”
“I hope Vietnam and Korea can forge a special friendship and jointly build a bright future of co-prosperity.”
With Vietnam in a festive mood thanks to the Suzuki Cup triumph, Park will now focus on the Asian Cup, which will open in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Jan. 5.
Vietnam, as the AFF Suzuki Cup champion, on March 26 will play Korea, which won the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Championship last year, in a new one-game tournament called the AFF-EAFF Champions Trophy. Park said he will consider this contest an A-match that he hopes to learn much from.