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Epassi turns Thanh Hoa defence around

After a rough 2019 season on the pitch, Thanh Hoa FC have found their feet in the twice-suspended 2020 V.League 1 season, largely thanks to Cameroonian defender Louis Christian Ewonde Epassi.

Louis Christian Ewonde Epassi (left) seen in a recent match for Thanh Hoa in the V.League 1 this year. Photo courtesy of Louis Christian Ewonde Epassi

The 32-year-old is considered one of the top foreign defenders in the national top-flight and has helped his side climb to eighth place in the rankings.

Last season, Thanh Hoa's Achilles' heel was their defence and they were fortunate to win the promotion/relegation playoff against Pho Hien FC to stay in the league.

Seeking to shore up at the back, Epassi was one of the club's first signings in the offseason, and it has proved a shrewd move.

“Thanh Hoa was a new challenge for me, the possibility of showing the whole world what I am worth even more. The club are full of cool leaders, great and sociable players who make you want to fight for them despite some difficulties encountered,” Epassi told Việt Nam News.

“What I know is there are no perfect structures so this club have their advantages and disadvantages like any other club without forgetting some really great fans so I will do my best whenever I had the opportunity to wear the club jersey to defend it with honour and humility,” he added.

Chairman of Thanh Hoa Nguyen Van De said: “Last season, our team had to play in the playoff to stay in the national top-flight league. This was a sad achievement compared to the tradition and potential of the team. Thanh Hoa’s leaders and I personally considered this as a bloody lesson to go again. Certainly, with quality players like Epassi, this season we will do our best to get good rankings.” 

Last season, Epassi was an important player for HCM City FC, as the side finished second in the league and reached the semi-finals of the National Cup.

In 2018, he played for SHB Da Nang in his first season in Vietnamese football, scoring five goals.

Back home in Cameroon, Epassi won the Cameroon Premiere Division on four occasions for Coton Sport FC de Garoua, before heading overseas to further his playing career.

Louis Christian Ewonde Epassi (left) poses with silver medal with HCM City in the V.League 1 last year. Photo courtesy of Louis Christian Ewonde Epassi

Kissing shoes to get luck

Footballers are a superstitious bunch, and Epassi is no exception as he kisses his shoes before training and matches for good luck.

“I have always kissed my shoes before putting them on my feet and stepping on the ground. It marks a very special thing in my life to be grateful to my mom who is the very first person to give me my first football shoes and also asked God to bless and guide me during the training sessions or matches in which I will participate,” Epassi told VNS.

Epassi always thanks his family for supporting him in football.

“I was born in a very modest family. My father worked in a company and my mother worked in the public service (finances). I am the third in a family of seven children. My only brother is today a priest of a Catholic church residing in France and I love my five sisters with all my heart. It is the most beautiful thing that God has given me because without this family I would not know how I am today. They love me and support me in everything, especially in football,” he said.

Like many footballers from Africa, Epassi dreamed of playing abroad and his agent brought him the opportunity.

“My agent, who believed in my qualities, told me that several footballers succeeded in their careers in Vietnam. At that time, I was in top form in the Cameroonian championship. However, I wanted to play in a new environment so I agreed without hesitating. My family also agreed and even encouraged me to go,” he said.

Louis Christian Ewonde Epassi (right) often kisses his shoes before training and competition to hope luck will come to him and his club. Photo

Epassi said that initially, adapting to the new environment was a struggle.

“Of course at the beginning, I encountered difficulties of the time difference because between Cameroon and Vietnam there is a difference of six hours of time then on certain meals but over time I adapted like a warrior who adapts to the adversities and vagaries of life,” he said.

While Vietnam and Cameroon might be thousands of miles apart, Epassis said he soon saw the two countries had plenty of similarities.

“I would like to note that the Vietnamese culture is very similar to the Cameroonian culture so I took a liking to it immediately.

“The food was sometimes very spicy and sweet at the beginning. But today, Vietnamese food is my favourite dishes, after meals in my country, Cameroon,” said Epassi.  VNS

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