HÀ NỘI — After helping the Vietnamese women’s football team qualify for their first-ever World Cup, Mai Đức Chung has become Southeast Asia’s most successful coach in the past decade.
On Sunday, Chung, who is 71 years old, guided Việt Nam to fifth place in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, ensuring qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in July 2023, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand.
Việt Nam, who beat Chinese Taipei 2-1 in the playoffs, are the sixth Asian representative at the competition.
Việt Nam, under Chinese coach Chen Yun Fa, previously came close to qualification to the 2015 tournament, before losing 2-1 to Thailand in the playoffs.
Chung, who has been in and out of the international set-up a few times, led the Vietnamese women’s team to the top four of the Asian Games in 2014. He also won four Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medals, in 2003, 2005, 2017 and 2019. His latest title came in the AFF Cup in 2019.
Chung was voted ASEAN’s Best Women’s Football Team Coach in 2017.
In his coaching career, Chung also worked with men’s club and national squads.
He managed different clubs in the V-League 1 but his highlight was when he drove the four-time champions Becamex Bình Dương to the semi-finals of the 2009 AFC Cup. It was the best result for a Vietnamese club at that time.
Chung was also temporary coach of the men’s national squad twice, the last time in October 2017, before South Korean coach Park Hang-seo took over. In 2008, he pushed the U22 team to the top podium of the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia.
Through more than 20 years of coaching, Chung has spent most of his time with women teams.
He has received love and respect from athletes across generations, who affectionately call him ‘daddy Chung’.
In interviews with reporters, defender Chương Thị Kiều, midfielder Nguyễn Thị Bích Thùy and captain Huỳnh Như all said “thank you” to their “daddy”. This is because Chung has made a big influence on their careers, and also cares about their life outside football.
“We do not call him uncle Chung or coach Chung. He is our relative, a father to our big family,” 2015 Golden Ball winner Nguyễn Minh Nguyệt said.
“He loves us. He is always gentle with us and encourages us all the time. He understands our difficulties and women’s football challenges. He unites us and pushes us to work and play hard,” said Nguyệt.
“He is part of reason leading to the success of women’s football of Việt Nam including today’s achievement.”
Chung always prepares the equipment for players before training, and he pays special attention to the meals and recovery of his ‘daughters’.
Speaking to reporters, Chung confirmed his love for his team and said: “I have no other dreams than my players happiness, that they can enjoy lives with their families.”
“Playing football, they have to sacrifice many things but after retirement, many of them could not live a standard life. I hope that sponsors and enterprises care more about them, and their lives will be better,” said Chung, who plans to leave the team by the end of this year.
News that Chung will not manage the team at the coming World Cup has made headlines in recent two days.
The Hanoian coach revealed that he was old and wants the Việt Nam Football Federation to find another coach for the team for the Australia/New Zealand event.
“I will introduce someone, maybe a foreigner. If VFF still needs me, I will join as an adviser,” Chung was quoted as saying on Vietnamplus.vn.
In response, VFF officials said they have not heard anything from Chung, and said that his contract runs until the end of 2022.
“When Chung and the team return home, we will have to meet and talk with him. Chung has contributed a lot to Việt Nam’s World Cup ticket and the development and success of women’s football. We really appreciate him,” VFF General Secretary Lê Hoài Anh said.
VFF Vice President Cao Văn Chóng said: “We will listen to him, respect his opinions and discuss with him about plans and orientation for the team. His contract is still valid and we have heavy work to do, especially to prepare for the coming SEA Games.”
Chung also confirmed his next job is to improve his team for coming strategies.
In 2022, Việt Nam will defend their titles in the SEA Games in May and the AFF Cup with time to be confirmed later; and will compete at the Asian Games in September in China. — VNS