In the country of Ho Chi Minh, he is a symbol and an idol. A true star of Vietnamese football, Nguyen Quang Hai has finally received permission to leave the local championship to export his talent to Europe. More precisely in Ligue 2, at Pau FC which, since then, has been accompanied by the mad enthusiasm of an impressive community of fans.
In France, the news went almost unnoticed. On June 29, while the farandole of transfer window rumors was buzzing around the possible departure of Frenkie de Jong for Manchester United or that, just as hypothetical, of Raphinha for Chelsea, Pau FC formalized the signing of a new midfielder. offensive. Not enough, a priori, to stir up the crowds, nor to ignite the canvas. And yet… More than 10,000 kilometers away, in Vietnam, the announcement of this transfer caused a great stir among fans of the round ball and made the front page of the sports media. It must be said that in the land of phở and bò bún, Nguyễn Quang Hải – because it is about him – is not just anyone. “He’s THE starassures Philippe Troussier, former coach of the Vietnamese U19s and connoisseur of Asian football. He is a beautiful player to see, very gifted technically and extremely precise on set pieces. » So much so that he carries around the oh so flattering and inevitably evocative nickname of “Vietnamese Messi”.
Nguyễn Quang Hải is! The Vietnamese international attacking midfielder?? (45 selections) joins Pau FC for the next two seasons He will wear the number 19 of Pau FC pic.twitter.com/ViwBDETpzK
– PAU FC (@PauFootballClub) June 29, 2022
“From the stands, we are not used to seeing this kind of players. He knows how to make others play and deserved for a few years to evolve to a higher level. » Philippe Troussier
“It’s a nice and good comparisonsays the former OM coach. Already because he is a small player, left-handed, who has real dribbling skills and who, in addition, is a great passer. From the stands, we are not used to seeing this kind of players. He knows how to make others play and deserved for a few years to evolve to a higher level. » Since 2015, the prodigy had indeed been under contract with Hanoi T&T FC, which only released him in mid-April. “There, contracts do not have the same meaning as in our European clubscontinues Troussier. The players are more or less under the control of the club for life. Quang Hải had been vegetating for 3-4 years. It’s good that he left, because otherwise he would have buried himself very slowly. » A time announced close to Metz or Nîmes, the figurehead of the Warriors of the Gold Star therefore finally signed up with the Pau formation, also in Ligue 2. Far from his native land, of course. But his countless admirers probably do not intend to take their eyes off him.
Wenger, the precursor
In Vietnam, football is a religion. “It’s the most popular sportposes Khanh, an expatriate in France for years, Ligue 1 consultant for state television and deputy director of Paris Saint-Germain shops. In 2018, when the U23 selection reached the Asian Cup final, we were 45 million in front of the television (out of a population of 95 million at the time, editor’s note) ! “Some companies even forced their employees not to work on match days” recalls Phan, a resident of Ho Chi Minh City and CEO of Club House films (which produces advertising content or films). However, the country was not at all destined to be passionate about football. For many years, the American blockade, a direct consequence of the victory of the Communists during the Vietnam War (1955-1975), prevented the local population from taking an interest in Western sports. When it was raised, it was thanks to Arsène Wenger that the country became acquainted with the king of sport. Under his leadership, Arsenal signed a partnership with Hoàng Anh Gia Lai’s club and opened an academy which brought out many players playing in the V-League (Vietnamese first division).
“Nguyen is a human billboard. Everyone wants to have it, it’s one of the most bankable. » Phan, entrepreneur in Ho Chi Minh City
Quang Hải is from Hanoi and played there until then in the best club in the country. But his notoriety does not come from there. “The patriotic fiber is very strong. Club football is less interesting” continues Khanh. If the neo-Béarnais is an icon, it is because he is the centerpiece of the national team. His fame is such that “many children bear his name” says Linh, 20, a Hanoi resident and media intern. For Phan, “Nguyễn is a human billboard. Everyone wants to have it, it’s one of the most bankable. But on top of that, he’s a good kid. For example, at the end of games, his first instinct is to ask where his mother is, and he is a hard worker. » Symbol of this “golden” generation dedicated to pacifying the country and turning the page on past conflicts, the 25-year-old young man has everything to please. So much so that the capital’s airport was crowded for his departure to France, and the atmosphere totally different, where a whole country hopes he can succeed.
“It’s absolutely amazing what happened. People living in Hanoi have even taken out stadium tickets! » Antoine Perpignaa, communication and marketing manager of Pau FC
From 21,000 to 230,000 subscribers in 36 hours
As soon as the signing of Nguyễn Quang Hải was made official, Pau FC and its employees faced a gigantic wave of enthusiasm and solicitations, in particular on social networks. In the space of a day and a half, the club’s Facebook page went from 21,000 to… more than 230,000 subscribers (more than 365,000 according to the last count). “We were a little afraid of being overtaken during the first 24 hoursbreathes Antoine Perpignaa, communication and marketing manager of the PFC. It’s absolutely amazing what happened. Fan clubs have been created almost everywhere, without authorization. People living in Hanoi have even taken out stadium tickets! “In Vietnam, now, we will be able to locate Pau on the mapsmiles Philippe Troussier. I think it’s a good package for the Palois: they have picked up a very good international player who will have a significant impact on the media level. » It is rumored, moreover, that companies have already come into contact with the leaders of Bearn, with a view to future partnerships. “We don’t close any doors.cautiously admits Antoine Perpignaa. Our goal remains to increase the club’s budget, so if there is an opportunity, why not. But our desire remains to continue to work in stability. » Before adding: “There are high expectations around Quang Hải, but we have to keep our feet on the ground. Our goal is to stay in Ligue 2. We are not in the Vietnam championship, and it is not these fans who will fill our stadium every fortnight. »
On the Pau side, we insist on one point: the Vietnamese international is there to bring real sporting added value, not to amuse the gallery or serve as a “commercialization of objects” . And if the player chose to land not far from the Pyrenees when he had other tracks, it’s probably not a coincidence. “We are a family club, on a human scalesays Antoine Perpignaa. In addition, the Vietnamese community is limited here. So I think he will really be able to flourish without being overstretched, and that’s probably what guided his choice. » The communications team has so far not responded to numerous requests from East Asian media to give Quang Hải time to integrate into his new squad. A translator accompanies him on a daily basis, but he intends to learn French soon. According to Philippe Troussier, the challenge will be to give him enough time to adapt. “At first, Quang Hải will face language problems, cultural adjustmentshe warns. It won’t be easy at all. I know Didier Tholot very well, whom I met when I was a coach at INF Vichy. He is a very human person, who will know how to create the environment for the player to feel good. » The native of the district of Đông Anh took care to send the first positive signals: at the end of a one-week internship in Saint-Paul-lès-Dax, he unlocked his counter in a friendly against a selection from the Landes ( 5-0).
Didier Tholot, Pau FC coach
Trafficking in fake jerseys
To what extent, from now on, will the worshipers of Nguyễn Quang Hải be passionate about the matches of Pau FC? Khanh, who works for VTV Onsport, the broadcaster of the French championship, answers this question in part: “We will not put any special arrangements in place for Quang Hải matches. It is very difficult for journalists to obtain French visas, and the logistical problems are obvious. » “In addition, going to France is expensive for usclutch Linh. But I think expatriates will sometimes go to the stadium to support him. In any case, we can’t wait to see him play! » This enthusiasm is already being felt. In an amazing way. The low standard of living in the country (around $230/month) has caused the derivatives black market to explode. Including counterfeit Pau jerseys, which abound on the Internet. “If someone had told me, six months ago, that we would see fake jerseys from our club appear… It’s crazylaughing Antoine Perpignaa. However, we have changed suppliers, and our official outfit has not even been released yet! » Another facet of the new and unexpected notoriety affecting Pau FC.
By Raphaël Brosse and Emmanuel Hoarau
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Header photo: © Pau FC