When Vietnam formed its first women’s national soccer team in 1997, the players wore men’s oversized jerseys. The team sometimes required him to travel an hour and a half from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) to reach available practice locations. Some players pushed carts and sold bread in the streets to sustain their early playing careers.
In the years following the end of the Vietnam War (referred to here as the American War) in 1975, economic reform took precedence over sports. It wasn’t until 1989 that the Vietnam Football Federation, which oversees football in the unified nation, was established. In its early days, soccer was a men’s sport and was widely considered too difficult and demanding for women to play. With so little money available, the sport didn’t seem like a good career choice for girls. But for the most part it didn’t matter. Many parents were reluctant to let their daughters play.
“Society did not approve of the existence of such a team,” he said. My Duk Jeong74 years old, then and now when he was the head coach of the Vietnam women’s national team.
After a quarter of a century, Vietnam has become one of the leading teams in Southeast Asia. This month, they will make their first appearance in the Women’s World Cup after a game against two-time defending champions United States in Auckland, New Zealand on Friday night (Eastern time).
Vietnam’s participation is the culmination of nearly a decade of Vietnam’s plan to develop women’s football, as part of which has expanded the World Cup roster from 16 to 24 and now to 32, and will be competing in this year’s tournament. was the largest in history. Its growth is giving opportunities to non-traditional forces. Eight nations participate in this year’s tournamenta quarter of the field participate for the first time.
With teams as diverse as Haiti, Ireland, Morocco and the Philippines, this will be football’s biggest moment for Vietnam and the rest of the newcomers. That means increased visibility and funding, increased sports specialization, and additional financial rewards. Football’s governing body, FIFA, has pledged at least $30,000 in prize money to each player participating in this year’s tournament.
But that growth brings a lack of experience, which could create a serious competitive imbalance if newcomers face the best teams in the world. It was a great satisfaction for Vietnam to qualify ahead of their fiercest rivals Thailand. But with that satisfaction comes the pressure to avoid embarrassing results like Thailand’s 13-0 loss to the USA at the last Women’s World Cup in 2019.
“We have witnessed a debacle. This is a lesson for Vietnam,” said team star forward Huynh Nhu. Like others interviewed for this article, she spoke through an interpreter. “Thailand has suffered huge losses and is in a way set back and their fighting spirit is no longer there.
Participation in the Women’s World Cup represents great national pride and international sporting achievements for Vietnam, which has won only one Olympic gold medal (Air pistol shooting, Rio 2016 Olympics) Although he has never qualified for the Men’s World Cup, men’s football is well known for regular episodes. Corruption and match-fixing.
But that same pride and similar hardships are reflected in other players who made their debut in the field this year. Ireland captain Katie McCabe grew up playing for boys’ teams, Encouraged by my brother and parents They are now watching her play for London club Arsenal. Haitian athletes have navigated a national system in which federation officials have been accused of coercing young athletes into sexual acts, while Morocco has overcome deep traditional prejudice and repeated family opposition to the majority of Arab nations. won the right to participate as the first team to occupy the
The Vietnamese team came close to matching any of them. Once shunned or simply ignored, Vietnamese women are now national names. After qualifying for the World Cup in a qualifying tournament in India last year, they were welcomed by their country’s prime minister and paraded through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in double-decker buses. Their World Cup matches will be broadcast live to their compatriots on various platforms.
More than any other Vietnamese player, Huynh Nhu, 31, represents the possibilities and inequalities of coexistence for women’s football in her country and, in fact, the world. She is the first female player from Vietnam to play for a European club team, and she scored seven goals in the recently ended season for Portuguese second division ranked FC Vila Verdense. After the World Cup, Huynh Nu is expected to extend her contract with the club and she has reportedly been offered an offer by the club. Her salary will double to €3,000 (about $3,200 a month).
This is in stark contrast to the average monthly salary of $200 to $300 for women’s semi-professional leagues in Vietnam. Annualized, these salaries are still below the country’s per capita GDP ($3,756.50 per year), according to the World Bank. Players often take side jobs to supplement their income. For example, before moving to Portugal last season, Huynh Nhu ran a business selling coconuts in her rural hometown in the Mekong Delta.
She said she currently has corporate partnerships with Visa, Coca-Cola and LG Electronics. And she is also the face of unprecedented press and sponsorship attention for the Vietnam Women’s National Team. National coach Mai said members of the national team can earn about $850 a month while training and attending international competitions away from the club. (Journalists said food and housing costs were deducted.)
Players have also been given bonuses by the Vietnam Football Federation and sponsors for their recent victories. Not all bonuses are known, and it remains unclear exactly how much of the bonus pool will be split between players and coaches. But the total prize pool announced is worth $8,000 apiece if he wins the Southeast Asian Games in May for the eighth time, and journalists say $15,000 if he qualifies for the World Cup. worth more than a dollar. Bonuses are not necessarily monetary. It may also include motorcycles and cars.
These figures are “very modest” when compared to the salaries and approval ratings of Vietnam’s top men’s footballers, said an executive and former sports editor at Tuoi Tre, a leading Vietnamese newspaper, and a longtime gender equality advocate. Advocate Cao Hui Tho said. But “this is very meaningful and life-changing for women because most of them come from very poor backgrounds.”
Huynh Nu’s family, for example, is building what is believed to be the tallest three-story house in the area in her hometown of Tra Vinh, complete with a shrine honoring her career.
Women in Vietnam’s domestic league who don’t play for the national team endure far more modest lives. Journalists say the league has very low attendance, around 100 to 300 people per game, and many companies are reluctant to sponsor the teams.
When the team representing Vietnam’s northwestern province of Son La has struggled to retain sponsorship in recent years, players’ Monthly salary plummeted to $130, or $70 — far less than you can earn by working in a factory. Some players left in search of higher paying jobs, but Song Ra is no longer in the league. When the club was threatened with dissolution last year, coach Luong Van Chuyen lamented to an online newspaper that he had only four players available. According to Luong, the rest “quit to get married and go home to become workers.”
The issue of unequal treatment of female soccer players reached the highest levels of government after Vietnam qualified for the Women’s World Cup. As a greeting to the returning players, Prime Minister Pham Min Chin dubbed them “Diamond Girls”, but they still face prejudice in playing what many consider to be men’s play, and suffer from unstable income and retirement. They also face difficulties arising from the lack of security for
“Women’s football needs more attention,” Pham said, calling on football officials, government agencies and sponsors to help develop a sustainable model for the sport. It is unclear what steps were taken to achieve that goal.
Football was introduced to Vietnam in 1896 during the French colonial period. The country claims to have formed Asia’s first women’s team, briefly playing against men in the early 1930s. But after the Vietnam War, an informal ban on women’s football existed until the early 1990s, said Cao, a journalist who began covering the sport later in the decade.
To circumvent the ban, sympathetic pharmacy executives in Ho Chi Minh City hid the female players in cargo trucks covered in tarpaulins and transported them to a match against the men’s team, Cao said. When the women’s national team was officially formed in 1997, Nguyen Thi Kim Hong was one of the players who sold bread to sustain her career.
“It was just our passion. Money wasn’t the goal for the first generation,” said Nguyen, now 51 and the goalkeeping coach for the women’s national team.
Some of today’s star athletes met opposition from their parents when they first started competing. Twenty-nine-year-old Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy is the youngest of three children. Her father was a soccer player, but her parents said that once she left home in central Vietnam, “nobody’s going to be a mother anymore.” I was worried that there would be no one to give it to me.” Ultimately, she said, her father became her biggest supporter.
In February 2022, Bhích Thuy scored the most important goal in Vietnam’s history after the coronavirus raged through the women’s team and nearly collapsed Vietnam’s bid for a World Cup qualification. In a 2-1 playoff victory over Taiwan, which FIFA calls Chinese Taipei, he scored with a deft touch with his right foot and a decisive and historic shot with his left foot. She dedicated the goal to her father, who passed away in 2016.
“It still feels like a dream,” said Bich Thuy of the goal. “My father always expected a lot from me.
The team’s star, Huynh Nu, had even more unconditional support from his parents. Her father, a former player, started coaching her when she was 3 or 4 years old. Her mother worked at a market in the countryside of Tra Vinh and brought her soccer ball to her home at the request of Huynh Nu. Her father said he used to tie her ball to a rope to keep her from kicking it into the canal outside her house. Currently, she is leading the Vietnam national team aiming for a goal at the World Cup. For now, this may be a more achievable goal than hoping to win a game in a group that includes the United States, the Netherlands (2019 World Cup runners-up) and Portugal, also making their first appearance outside the top 20. do not have. in the latest world rankings.
One of the richest women in the country, a patron of Thailand’s 2019 Women’s World Cup team, said she encouraged her players: “If you score, I’ll buy you a $5,000 Chanel bag.” Huynh Nu laughed.
“I’m looking forward to having such a billionaire in my country,” she said.
Linh Pham contributes a report from Cha Vinh, Vietnam.