It's often said, fairly or not, that footballers aren't the brightest bunch, but Andrey Hungovich Nguyen breaks the mould.
|Overseas Vietnamese midfielder Andrey Hungovich Nguyen (right) of Hai Phong seen in training. Photo zing.vn|
The overseas Vietnamese midfielder, known as Nguyen Anh Hung in Vietnamese, chose the beautiful game over a potential high-flying career in aviation engineering.
Though he joined V.League 1 club Hai Phong last year, Nguyen is still something of an unknown to Vietnamese football fans.
The 22-year-old was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. He has a Vietnamese father and a Russian mother and as a youngster, passed the entrance exam to Moscow Aviation Institute and played for the institute's football club.
“I studied maths and physics at the institute. In my third year, I left because I always wanted to be a professional footballer. My family wanted me to follow my father's career, which was to be a pilot or an aeronautical engineer, at least a career associated with aviation, but I couldn't. Football has been my dream since I was born," said Nguyen.
Nguyen started football training at the Mosvkovich club from the age of six. He and his teammates won the children's football championship four years running and he won the best player award in 2009 and 2011.
After that, Nguyen moved to Orbita club and joined the amateur football league in Moscow, winning three championships.
In 2015, Nguyen decided to return to Vietnam to seek a career in the game but was unsuccessful.
Returning to Russia, Nguyen graduated from high school and studied at the Moscow Aviation Institute and was selected for the school's football team while still training and playing for Orbita.
Although he lived in Russia, Nguyen keenly followed Vietnamese football and still harboured dreams of playing in Vietnam.
Those dreams came true when Hai Phong signed him.
Adventure in V.League 1
Though he joined the northern port side in July 2019, Nguyen had to wait nearly a year to make his first appearance in the national premier league in the match against Sai Gon FC on July 5.
Although his side lost by two goals to nil and his debut performance was largely unremarkable, just getting on the pitch was great encouragement for Nguyen.
“Nguyen is making progress and is in plans for the future,” said coach Pham Anh Tuan of Hai Phong.
Life off the pitch in Vietnam has plenty of surprises to Nguyen.
“Things were difficult during my first time in Vietnam. It took a few weeks for me to get familiar with the Vietnamese climate after the winter in Russia. I didn’t have many problems with food, I just don't speak Vietnamese. I was very surprised by the life of professional players. It was fortunate that my coach and teammates helped me gain the confidence to train physically and learn tactics,” said Nguyen.
Luckily, Nguyen also received support from his teammates, especially two other overseas Vietnamese footballers in the team, Adriano Schmidt and Martin Lo.
“They help me a lot, both in work and in life. Martin Lo is my brother, teacher and translator in Vietnam. He helps me understand the head coach's tactical plans, which have many specialised words that cannot be expressed in body language,” said Nguyen.
Nguyen said he is learning Vietnamese to compete well in Vietnam.
Hai Phong have some history with overseas Vietnamese players and Nguyen's fellow Russian-Vietnamese goalkeeper Dang Van Lam rose to stardom at the club.
“Like every football team in the world, Hai Phong have many advantages to create conditions for players like me. When I first saw Hai Phong fans, I felt their love for the team. I will strive step by step to learn and cement my position at the club,” said Nguyen. VNS
Star Vietnamese-Russian goalkeeper Dang Van Lam is the highest-paid custodian in the Thai League 1, according to Thai media outlet SMMSport.