The Local Game: From prejudice to pride

The 38-year-old goalkeeper Bùi Tấn Trường, born in Đồng Tháp, had a career that up to this point was marred by critics, doubt, and even memes.


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Bùi Tấn Trường, who recently ended his four-year stint at Hà Nội FC, where he began a remarkable comeback story. VNA/

Theo Vietnamnews

Photo Hoàng Linh

Anh Đức

HÀ NỘI  Bùi Tấn Trường, one of the most renowned and polarised figures in Vietnamese football history, has just ended his four-year run with Hà Nội FC, capping off perhaps a journey of redemption for himself.

The 38-year-old goalkeeper, born in Đồng Tháp, had a career that up to this point was marred by critics, doubts, and even memes. His middle name, Tấn, means ‘tonnes’ in Vietnamese, and foreshadows the amount of pressure the giant 1.9-metre-tall keeper has had to bear.

Trường’s career started at Đồng Tháp FC, where he had his big break in 2007, when he solidified his place as first-choice goalkeeper at just 21 years old, and also became the first Vietnamese goalkeeper to score in the league.

Two years later, Trường was called up to Việt Nam’s under-22 team for the 25th SEA Games in Laos. Many perceived this as a breakthrough for the keeper, and indeed the tournament changed his life forever.

Trường started the tournament with a mistake in the match against Thailand, but soon regained his composure and played well up until the final against Malaysia, where he suffered a shoulder injury during the match.

The team doctor then injected painkillers for Trường and he tried to play through the pain. But only 20 minutes later, Trường conceded an easy shot from close range and Việt Nam lost the cup in the final minutes.

Because the incident of match-fixing at Bacolod, Philippines was still on fans’ minds, any mistake by players was scrutinised and cries of ‘match-fixing’ was always heard from the angry mob, of which Trường was also a victim. The infamous photo where manager Henrique Calisto strangled his neck even fueled the conspiracy theories more.

In the following ten years, Trường moved from club to club in the South and only popped up in the news every time he made a mistake. During the pandemic when football stopped, he even acquired new young fans by streaming video games and even opened up an arcade in his hometown.

But it was only when Trường made a bold choice of moving to the North to play for Hà Nội FC, did the redemption story began. In his four years at Hà Nội, the keeper played exceptionally well and won five trophies. His performance caught the eye of coach Park Hang-seo, who called him up for the national team for the World Cup Qualifiers.

Twelve years after the mistake in the final, Trường and teammates faced Malaysia again. With all his resolve, Trường slayed his past demons with spectacular saves, securing the three points for Việt Nam and eliminate Malaysia from World Cup contention.

Although his career is nearing the end, Trường’s story will always be memorable, not for the achievements he’s made, but the rough journey where he has to rise above hate and doubt to redeem his image.

Theo Vietnamnews