Leading Vietnam to final stage of World Cup qualifiers: the Park Hang-seo story
Updated: 2021-12-03 12:04:32 KST
Some say he's "magic".
Others call him Vietnam's Guus Hiddink, whom he assisted for two years as they led South Korea to the World Cup semi-finals in 2002.
But both are nicknames that the current head coach of Vietnam's National Football Team, Park Hang-seo shys away from.
"Coach Hiddink should never be compared with someone like me. His experience and ability are a thousand times greater than mine."
Park Hang-seo is hailed a hero in Vietnam where he has taken the national team to the final group stage of the World Cup qualifiers for the first time in the country's history.
They have found that stage a step too far, losing all of their first six games, but that hasn't discouraged Park.
"The Vietnamese people, the players and I are all craving a single point. It's not over. We still have four games left and our goal is to win at least one of them."
And despite the losses, the head coach still enjoys unwavering support in Vietnam.
"It's already really historic that we made it to the final qualifiers and we appreciate his effort, his contribution to our national team more than the fact that we have lost the games."
"I think his responsibility, his down to earth personality and the way he takes care of our players are the reasons we are united as one."
Before the remaining qualifiers, though, Park aims to defend Vietnam's title as the greatest footballing nation in Southeast Asia at the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup, starting in a few days.
It's a tournament he won in 2018.
"We're the defending champions but we need to go back to the mindset we had in 2018 when Vietnam won the cup for the first time in ten years."
Park believes the Suzuki Cup is the reason his contract was recently extended to January 2023.
"You know? When I first joined Vietnam, I thought even a one-year tenure would be tough considering how short of a stay former head coaches from abroad had. But I've been head coach for four years now already."
Whatever happens next, Vietnam has forever become a part of Park Hang-seo's story.
In the coach's own words, the country is his good luck charm that's revitalized his career.
"Next to my motherland, Vietnam is the most unforgettable place in the world for me my second home in a way."