[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]
At 35, Truong showed his class and experience with many excellent saves that helped Vietnam advance to the final round of World Cup qualifiers.
Truong didn’t have an easy and peaceful childhood. His parents divorced when he was only four days old and his mother had to do multiple jobs to raise four children on her own.
At 12, Truong began to help his mother with any job he could find, including selling meat and fruit. He didn’t mind doing hard and heavy work, as long as his family had enough to eat.
“My mom would go to the market at 1 a.m. every day to buy meat from traders. When she finished cutting the meat around one hour later, I would deliver them to the customers then go back to sleep so I can go to school at 7 in the morning. I delivered about 30-50 kg of meat every day,” Truong recalled in a livestreamed talk on June 16, after returning to Vietnam from UAE.
When Truong turned 13, he got a new job, carrying heavy baskets of sand and rocks on his head to the construction site.
“Sometimes my head was swollen but I was happy to make some money. On the first day, I made VND12,000 ($0.52). At that time, it was not a small amount at all and you had to work twice as hard as other people to get paid like that,” Truong said.
At 15, Truong decided to quit school and focus on working, since his family was in debt and couldn’t afford to pay his tuition.
“I only earned VND6,000 ($0.26) a day. My job was to cut the heads of stone triggerfish for a seafood company in Vung Tau Province. It wasn’t an easy job you know, because the fish have very rough skin and that damaged my hands even when I wore gloves. But even when doing such a job like that, I still didn’t have enough money to live.”
Poverty kept following Truong and there was a time that he tried to steal some fish by putting them into his gloves but they found out. His mother had to apologize to the company to keep his job.
After working there for three months, Truong quit the job and started selling rambutans. He bought them at the gardens and sold them for a higher price. Sometimes he could sell up to 100 kg but there were also days that he couldn’t sell any so he had to eat rambutans to get through the day.
Truong returned to his hometown in Dong Thap Province after six months of working in Vung Tau. Then one day, his cousin asked him to join the U16 team of Dong Thap as the team were recruiting and the goalkeeper position was vacant. Truong agreed and he was chosen by the team to play at a provincial tournament. This was Truong’s first professional tournament, and he was 15. The team lost all four matches and Truong conceded 29 goals.
After the tournament in 2001, Truong thought his football journey would end very soon. But two weeks later, he got called up to the youth team of Dong Thap again. Then after another two weeks in training, Truong asked the club to quit because he felt embarrassed about his limited abilities.
Fortunately, the club’s director knew about Truong’s circumstances and advised him to continue his football career because he won’t have to worry about meals, accommodation and education if he stayed.
Since then, football has been a part of Truong’s life.
He got promoted to Dong Thap’s first team in 2006 and played there for six years and then spent a year at Xuan Thanh Saigon before the club was dissolved in 2013.
Mistakes, retirement and comeback
Truong’s great form at Dong Thap earned him a spot in the national team as the main goalkeeper more than a decade ago. In his first big tournament with Vietnam, the SEA Games 2009, everything was going well for Truong until the final game with Malaysia. He was injured but still tried to play, which made him slower and unable to receive a pass from his teammate, causing an own goal.
In the semifinals of AFF Cup 2010 against Malaysia, Truong once again made a mistake. This time he wasn’t injured, but still, the keeper was unable to catch the ball cleanly from two simple plays, giving two easy goals to Malaysia. Truong was heavily criticized for his mistakes and he only got one more call to the national team in 2016 since.
Truong continued his club career with Becamex Binh Duong until 2019 and retired from the game. By that time, he had won two V. League trophies, one National Cup and two Super Cup titles with the club. He went back to his hometown and opened a game shop there.
But football was not ready to let Truong go as only seven months later, Hanoi FC contacted him. The capital club wanted somebody to fill in for their main keeper, who was injured and the second keeper was also not fit. They need a quick and cheap replacement, so Truong was the ideal choice.
Truong played 14 games for Hanoi in the second leg of V. League 2020. He conceded only eight goals and kept a clean sheet for eight games, which helped the club finish second. Truong even got a nomination for the Vietnamese Golden Ball that year. Hanoi also extended his contract with a bigger salary and head coach Park Hang-seo called him up to the national team again after four years.
The 34-year-old keeper couldn’t believe that everything was happening so fast and so unexpectedly at the same time. But he didn’t stay euphoric for long because competing with other keepers in the national team was never easy. But after so many twists and turns, fate put Truong in the right place at the right time after number one keeper Dang Van Lam couldn’t join Vietnam for the World Cup qualifiers in the UAE because he’d come into contact with a Covid-19 infectee while playing in Japan. Other keepers in the team were not experienced enough for an important tournament like this.
All eyes were on Truong now. Many were skeptical considering his past mistakes. But Truong was confident enough to say these words before the game, because he was no longer the 23-year-old keeper who’d crumbled easily under pressure: “Just watch me. Believe in me. I’ll try my best to gain your trust.”
And Truong delivered with an excellent performance in the important game with Malaysia, showing great reflexes and positioning with crucial saves. Without him, the result would have been different from a 2-1 win for Vietnam.
In his livestreamed talk, Truong spoke of his mistakes and the bad impression people had about him in the past.
“As a human, who doesn’t make mistakes? I don’t care what people said about me. Instead, I always stayed focused on the game to achieve good results. But I was worried when playing in the World Cup qualifiers because if I made a mistake again, they would heap criticism and doubts on me. I was fine with that but I was afraid it will affect my family and children when they read negative things about me in the newspaper,” he said.
At the pinnacle of his career, he spoke with some humor about his retirement plan: “Remember to like and share my livestream because when I retire I’ll become a streamer.”
class /klɑːs/ (n): đẳng cấp
advance to somewhere /ədˈvɑːns/ (v): tiến vào, tiến tới
swell /swel/ / swollen /ˈswəʊ.lən/ [C2] (v): sưng lên
stone triggerfish /stəʊn ˈtrɪɡ.ə(r).fɪʃ/ (n): cá cò đá
rambutan /ræmˈbuː.tən/ (n): quả chôm chôm
get through (v): sống qua ngày
vacant /ˈveɪ.kənt/ [B2] (adj): trống
provincial /prəˈvɪn.ʃəl/ (adj): cấp tỉnh
concede /kənˈsiːd/ [C1] (v): để thủng lưới
embarrassed /ɪmˈbær.əst/ [B1] (adj): xấu hổ
circumstance /ˈsɜː.kəm.stɑːns/ [B2] (n): hoàn cảnh
dissolve /dɪˈzɒlv/ [C1] (v): giải thể
form /fɔːm/ (n): phong độ
semifinal /ˌsem.iˈfaɪ.nəl/ [B2] (n): bán kết
trophy /ˈtrəʊ.fi/ [B2] (n): chức vô địch
title /ˈtaɪ.təl/ [C2] (n): danh hiệu, chức vô địch
the second leg (n): vòng lượt về
nomination /ˌnɒm.ɪˈneɪ.ʃən/ [C1] (n): đề cử
euphoric /juːˈfɒr.ɪk/ (adj): hưng phấn
twists and turns (n): biến cố, xoay vần
fate /feɪt/ [B2] (n): số phận
infectee /ɪnˈfek.tiː/ (n): người bị lây nhiễm
all eyes are on sb/sth (expression): mọi con mắt đổ dồn về ai/cái gì
skeptical /ˈskep.tɪ.kəl/ [C2] (adj): hoài nghi
crumble /ˈkrʌm.bəl/ [C2] (v): gục ngã
reflexes /ˈriː.flek.siːz/ (n): phản xạ
heap sth on sb /hiːp/ (v): dồn cái gì tới ai
criticism /ˈkrɪt.ɪ.sɪ.zəm/ [B2] (n): chỉ trích
doubt /daʊt/ [B1] (n): nghi ngờ
pinnacle /ˈpɪn.ə.kəl/ (n): đỉnh, đỉnh cao (sự nghiệp)