Vietnam Time

1/31/2018 3:17:59 PM

Football brings Korea and Vietnam closer

Koreatimes - Vietnam went wild Saturday night despite the country's 1-2 defeat to Uzbekistan in the final of the Asian Football Confederation U23 Championship.

Fans poured into the streets in all big cities to celebrate their team's historic achievement under the leadership of Korean manager Park Hang-seo.

"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.

Dinh, who works at a subcontractor for Samsung Electronics near the capital, said he left work early to join the huge football crowd.

Giang Nguyen, 28, who watched the game in Ho Chi Minh City, said the tournament brought Vietnamese and Koreans closer together.

A massive crowd in Hanoi celebrates Vietnam's historic second place at the U23 Asian Cup, Saturday/ Courtesy of Dinh Xuan Hoa

"Park is being cheered in Vietnam for his dedication to the team," she said. "His leadership has led the young team to another level in the regional playing arena. With his help I can see a lot of Korean friends both in Vietnam and Korea are directing their support to the Vietnamese team."

"Vietnamese people now look at him as a part of the Vietnamese team and show their respects to him and his family.

She pointed out Park's wife was invited to the Vietnamese Embassy in Korea.

"I think Park has strengthened the relationship between Vietnam and Korea to a higher level of trust as part of the family," she said.

She noted many Vietnamese believed Park played a crucial role in lifting their country's football to the next level.

"We all were impressed by the players' fighting skills, resilience, teamwork and, most importantly, their professional attitude toward not just their supporters but also referees and their opponents," she said.

"I think his contribution will surely foster cooperation between Vietnam and Korea."

Park instructs his players during the final match at Changzhou Olympic Sports Center in China. / Yonhap

The celebration continued late into the night despite rain. Kim Hyo-jin, a Korean who lives in Hanoi, said it reminded her of when Korea reached the World Cup semi-finals after defeating Spain in 2002.

Vuong Thuy Hang, 27, watched the final during a business trip in Hanoi and later returned to her home in Ho Chi Minh City.

"On the street they were still celebrating the achievement. The atmosphere was the same. It was exciting and heart-moving. We have never got that far in a big tournament," she said.

"We were glad our team got into the quarterfinals, so we started celebrating for them. The team played better and better in every game, so they caught a lot of attention.

A photo of Korean football manager Park Hang-seo on the back of a car in Hanoi. / Courtesy of Dinh Xuan Hoa

She said football has never before caught 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) got in and cheered for them. Thanks to football, every heart here was connected," she said.

Local media reported that Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called the team to congratulate them, and that he had asked Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to provide a big bonus for Park, the players and other officials.

Korea's President Moon Jae-in also praised the manager's contribution. Moon said he was glad that through football, "Korea and Vietnam have become close friends."

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