John YeonJoon Baik
2016 March 13th
Globalization of Sports
The First Sports Diplomacy Between Vietnam and South Korea
Le Van Truong
Truong is a prospective soccer player and a ‘Golden Generation’ in Vietnam. He trained at the Arsenal Youth Team in England and built his skills in European style, which stands on the top of the world soccer. Thanks to the training, his accurate pass, creative play and confident scoring amaze Vietnamese soccer fans, and they claim Thrung as ‘Vietnam Soccer Player’, as much whole nation pays attention to him.
It is not something unexpected that Korean National Team pointed Thrung as a key player in 2015 before the match with Vietnamese team for Asia 19th Football Championship League.
In 2015, Dec, Thrung made two years of contract with United Incheon, one of Korean League teams, and to the K-league, it was the first time bringing in foreign soccer player from Vietnam. It is good news to Incheon United fans and a great opportunity to the team to reinforce mid-field.
Marketing to Vietnam
However, like always, an unprecedented case as to bringing a new foreign player provokes controversial about impure intention to scout: marketing.
When Ji Sung Park was scouted to Manchester United, people doubted that he is a mean for Asian market, from time to time. Furthermore, it is known that the ‘Ji Sung Park marketing’ worked successfully. “The club believes there are a lot of opportunities to work with Korean companies to help them build their brand and expand their business through positive brand association”(Jun and Nam, 2014).
For Thrung, the Incheon United and the Incheon city frankly admit the possible effect of marketing over Vietnam.
“We expect soccer fans in Vietnam to watch K-League” (Head of Incheon United, 2015).
“We wish this is a hopeful message to Vietnamese labors and also expect many would come to Incheon to watch Incheon United matches” (Sports Promotion Assiociates, 2015).
This first event of sports diplomacy with Vietnam is not a huge issue in Korea; unlike the popularity of soccer in Korea, the K-league is out of majorities’ interest. In contrast, Truong is the one who gets all the attention and leads the ‘Golden Generation’ in his own country. Nonetheless, Truong likes to take this offer to play in Korea as an opportunity.
“I will not be afraid to play in Korea, but rather, I would like to grow up through this opportunity”.
It is notable to know why it is possible turning point to Truong to play in Korea, instead of his own country with all the love and support.
In the early and mid 90s, Korean soccer did not achieve its fame much. Any game with European team could not encourage people to expect any chance of winning. For the World Cup, the national team also failed to earn a single victory, but until in 2002.
During the World Cup of 2002, the Korean National Team showed unexpected performance that leads the team to win against Portugal, Italy and Spain, and go to semi-final match. Although the Korean team could not achieve the World Cup, it was good enough to many other soccer leagues to “check out” Korean soccer players. Having Started with JiSung Park and YoungPyo Lee, the European League began to scout Korean soccer players.
Park and Lee, 2006, MU vs TTN
“After Park JiSung’s heading toward Europe, YoungPyo Lee, KiHyung Sul, JungYong Lee, HeungMin Son and other many Korean players actively follow up to build their career and perform at the foreign fields. The European League is no longer just an admiring dream that exist only on TV screen”(JunMok Lee OMNEWS).
Truong will not be able to play in the Korean National Team, but he has an opportunity to play at the field where has eyes watching. He mentioned JiSung Park as his role model and dream to play at the England Premiere League, during the interview, and is looking forward a chance to move on to the next step.
About two hundreds of soccer fans and seven governors visited Korea to show their support to Truong and celebrated the first sports diplomacy with Korea. In contrast, as it is mentioned, it is not an interest to most of Koreans and they might hear about him once on the sports news. However, their disinterest does not mean anything so far. Truong is a lead of young generation for Vietnam soccer and is acknowledged his skills. Although it is not the biggest soccer league in the world, now he came to K-League where he may take a big step forward for many Vietnamese soccer players in the future.
“They[Vietnamese players] learn quickly. We’ll see what happens in the future”, said Dominique Rocheteau, a 1984 European Championship winner.