Vietnamese people across the country exploded in jubilation when the final whistle was blown after Vietnam won the gold medal at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA) on Tuesday. A local daily newspaper described the moment, “The whole nation is in joy and delight after realizing a dream cherished for 60 years. The country is in a self-congratulatory mood.”
Coach Park Hang-seo, 60, has once again emerged as Vietnam’s hero after leading his team to success. Vietnam’s under-23 men’s football team led by the South Korean coach beat Indonesia 3-0 in the men’s football final at SEA in Manila, the Philippines, to win their first gold medal in 60 years. Back in 1959, South Vietnam won the inaugural football title at the SEAP Games (now SEA Games) before its reunification.
Thousands of people gathered on the streets of big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh to cheer for their national team. Park Jin-ho, 33, who is traveling Hanoi, said that Vietnamese people reached their hand out for a hi-five whenever they met a Korean on the street and some even said, “Park Hang-seo is the best” in Korean. People gathered in groups at schools and hospitals to watch the game together and support their national team. “Patients hospitalized in a national hospital gathered in front of a big screen to root for their team. For them, football was the best medicine,” wrote Vietnamese online news media Zing.
“Vietnam unites as one whenever there is a national football team match. Coach Park is our hero since he gives us pride and takes good care of the players like ‘papa (father),’” said Bu Doi Tung, 27. Coach Park captured the heart of Vietnamese people with his “papa leadership,” where he gladly gives players foot massages and prefers carrots over sticks.
There was another moment in the final match, where Vietnam fell in love with coach Park again. In the 78th minute, when Vietnam was taking a 3:0 lead, Park was given a red card for arguing with the referee after the latter had not call a foul to an Indonesian player. Vietnamese media reported that Park was like a chicken trying to protect its chicks.
In football, it is unusual for a coach to be given a red card for complaining when his team is leading by a big margin. “I was confident that we could win the game after the third goal,” said Park. “But I complained so hard in order to prevent my players from letting their guard down. Honestly, I didn’t think I would be sent off.”
Yun-Cheol Jeong firstname.lastname@example.org