Foreign press: Vietnam U23s kindle national pride and unity

Tuesday, 2018-01-30 11:44:31
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Thousands of fans arrived at My Dinh National Stadium to cheer on Vietnam U23s in the final of the AFC U23 Championship against Uzbekistan U23s. (Photo: Nam Nguyen)
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NDO – The remarkable journey of Vietnam’s U23 team in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Championship ended with a runner-up title in a continental tournament for the first time in history. Though the achievements of the red-shirted men exceed such accolades, as their unprecedented feats have awakened the pride and national unity of more than 90 million fans.

Foreign correspondents have also been deployed to Vietnam to join with locals in celebrating the joy of football and share their impressions of the team's journey.

In an article on Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review, Atsushi Tomiyama wrote, “U23 team's trip to Asian finals fosters sense of national camaraderie.”

The national team's first-ever appearance in the finals of an AFC U23 championship, triggered mass celebrations across the country, despite the narrow defeat in Saturday’s final.

Atsushi Tomiyama explained: “Soccer is Vietnam's biggest sport. The response was similarly riotous when the national team won the ASEAN Football Federation's Suzuki Cup in 2008.”

The enthusiasm is understandable, Atsushi Tomiyama wrote, adding that the soccer games have brought the Vietnamese people closer together.

Thousands of fans gathered to watch Vietnam U23s’ match on the giant screen.

Beyond stirring up national unity, many Vietnamese also said that the U23 players' successes under the guidance of Korean coach Park Hang-seo has brought Vietnamese and Koreans closer.

As Jung Min-ho writes in The Korea Times, the oldest English-language newspaper in the Republic of Korea (ROK), “the amazing atmosphere of Vietnamese fans celebrating even though their U23 team did not win the title.”

"Many Vietnamese and Koreans went out to watch the game together. We lost, but we feel a great pride," Dinh Xuan Hoa, 27, who lives in Hanoi, told The Korea Times.

Giang Nguyen, 28, who watched the game in Ho Chi Minh City, said the tournament brought Vietnamese and Koreans together in solidarity. "Park is being cheered in Vietnam for his dedication to the team," she said. “With his help I can see a lot of Korean friends both in Vietnam and Korea are directing their support to the Vietnamese team. I think Park has strengthened the relationship between Vietnam and Korea to a higher level of trust as part of the family," she said.

Fans celebrate the achievements of Vietnam’s U23 team around Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake.

Vuong Thuy Hang, 27, said that the atmosphere of celebration spread everywhere. “We have never got that far in a big tournament." She said football has never before had that much attention from people here. "This time it was emotional to see the players doing really well and to see that many fans (including new female fans) joined in and cheered for them. Thanks to football, every heart here was connected," she said.

The Korea Times revealed that the ROK’s President Moon Jae-in also praised manager Park's contributions. President Moon said he was glad that through football, "Korea and Vietnam have become close friends."

Various foreign outlets, including AFP, Foxsports Asia, Siam Sports, Korea Times, Sportal Korea, and Yonhap News have also expressed amazement at the way football fans have celebrated their national team's achievements, as well as hailing the team's remarkable performances at the tournament.

Vietnam U23s return from AFC Championship with silver medals to the warm welcome of fans on Sunday.