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Nguyễn Thái Sơn was awarded the Vietnamese Golden Ball Award for Best Young Male Player category in 2023. — Photo Facebook of Sport5

A year ago, Nguyễn Thái Sơn was relatively unknown in Vietnamese football. However, he has since emerged as a remarkable figure among both professionals and fans.

At just 20 years old, Sơn has already earned the Best Young Player of V. League 2023 and the Vietnamese Golden Ball Award for Best Young Male Player in 2023.

These accolades have served as motivation for him to mature and gain confidence in his future endeavours. He remains determined to contribute to the success of both the Vietnamese national team and his club.

In 2022, Sơn made the transition from the youth team to the senior team of Đông Á Thanh Hóa. By the end of the second leg of the 2022 V. League 1 season, he had scored two goals in four matches.

Within a year, he progressed from the national U20 team to the U23 team and eventually secured a spot in the Vietnamese national senior team. He even participated in the 2023 Asian Cup finals. Notably, during this time, several key players such as Đỗ Hùng Dũng, Vũ Văn Thanh, Nguyễn Văn Toàn, Nguyễn Quang Hải, and Đỗ Duy Mạnh found themselves on the bench under coach Philippe Troussier.

Sơn primarily played as a central midfielder and exhibits various strengths, including agility, endurance, and an ability to orchestrate the game from deep. He left a lasting impression at events such as the SEA Games 32, Asian Games 2022, World Cup 2026 qualifiers, and Asian Cup 2023.

Before his remarkable debut for the national team against Syria in June 2023, Sơn had already made a significant impact in the match against U22 Laos at the SEA Games 32. In that game, he covered an impressive distance 11.4km, surpassing the average of world football stars at the 2022 World Cup. Thanks to his rigorous physical training with the Thanh Hóa team, Sơn possesses exceptional stamina, rendering him an invaluable asset at both club and national team levels.

Not only does Sơn demonstrate abundant energy during matches, but he also exhibits maturity, a serious and professional training attitude, and is highly regarded for his work ethic. To date, Sơn has played approximately 30 matches for Đông Á Thanh Hóa and has represented the national team on five occasions.

For years, the Vietnamese team heavily relied on the central midfielder duo of Đỗ Hùng Dũng and Nguyễn Hoàng Đức. However, both players are currently facing challenges with form and fitness. In this context, Sơn's emergence brings great joy. He brings a breath of fresh air to the Vietnamese team.

"Sơn is one of the young talents who has shown the most remarkable progress from the beginning of 2023 until now," said former national footballer Nguyễn Minh Phương. “Despite his height of 1.71m, Sơn compensates for any physical disadvantages with his impressive physical strength, skilful technique, and intelligent gameplay.”


Sơn's journey from playing with a plastic ball as a young boy to becoming a national player took a mere seven years.

As a child, Sơn never envisioned pursuing professional football, despite his deep love for the sport. He simply enjoyed playing football with friends after class.

Growing up in a small village near Thanh Hóa City, Sơn had no trouble developing his skills. He even had the opportunity to practise with Thanh Hóa City's youth team, although he didn't try out for the professional team.

The skinny youngster could often be found on the football field, playing with either a plastic or a cheap leather ball. Despite this, his teacher and family encouraged him to take the trials for the provincial professional team.

Initially, Sơn's father wanted him to focus on studying. While he didn't object to his son playing football, he wasn't convinced that Sơn had what it took to become a professional player. He feared his son might face disappointment and failure. However, after repeated persuasion from Sơn's teacher, his father had a change of heart and advised him to give it a go.

In August 2016, at the age of 13, Sơn made the decision to take the trial and was accepted into the Thanh Hóa Youth Football Training Centre, marking the beginning of his journey in professional football.

In just two years, Sơn and his teammates achieved the second runners-up position at the 2018 National U15 Championship. The following year, they emerged as champions at the 2019 National U17 Championship. This successful period for Thanh Hóa youth football was closely linked to the talents of players such as Đoàn Ngọc Hà, Nguyễn Công Sơn, Nguyễn Văn Tùng, and Sơn.

In 2022, Sơn earned a call-up to the senior team of Thanh Hóa. Due to numerous injured players, he finally got his chance to start in a match against Hà Nội FC towards the end of the season. To everyone's surprise, he scored the goal that secured a point for the home team.

Sitting in the stands at the Thanh Hóa Stadium that day, Sơn's father, Nguyễn Thái Toàn, was overjoyed to witness his son score the first goal of his career. Despite their modest circumstances, Toàn had supported his son throughout various youth tournaments, worrying about him every step of the way.

The greatest source of happiness for Toàn is the encouragement and inquiries from friends and neighbours about his son playing for Thanh Hóa and the Vietnamese team. He received many good wishes and good luck messages.

"I still remember what my father told me. I strive to give my best and perform well because everyone cares about me. My father worked tirelessly to raise four children, yet always fretted over my matches. I play football not only to fulfil my father's dreams but also to provide a better life for my family," Sơn said. VNS