Friday 07 August 2020, 01:40

Breakthrough star Hau aims high as Vietnam seek to stun the world 

  • Doan Van Hau recently returned home from a one-year spell with SC Heerenveen

  • Defender part of Vietnam's young golden generation

  • Vietnam on track to reach decisive round of World Cup qualifiers for first time

Three-time Youth Player of the Year in Vietnam, 2018 AFF Championship winner, 2018 AFC U-23 Championship silver medal, participant in nation’s groundbreaking 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign and quarter-finalist at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. It is quite a résumé for 21-year-old Vietnamese defender Doan Van Hau, who is being hailed as one of Asia’s most promising stars.

The talented youngster returned home from SC Heerenveen on Sunday, ending his one-year spell with the Eredivisie side. Just as Hau’s high-profile loan move to the Dutch giants last September drew massive attention, his return was not without fanfare garnering headlines in his homeland and beyond.

Hau, however, was refreshingly relaxed when spoke to him about his breakthrough season in the Netherlands."My life and my work at Heerenveen was good," said Hau, who is currently in quarantine due to COVID-19. "It was a dream come true joining a European club like Heerenveen. Training and playing alongside those good players has helped me improve."

Star in the making

Born in rural Hung Ha of Thai Binh Province, Hau started playing football when he was eight. As his family couldn't afford to buy him an authentic ball, he had to play with a makeshift one instead - a pomelo, the citrus fruit native to Southeast Asia. It was during that time when little Hau decided to improve the life of his family through playing football.

"I love football and becoming a professional footballer was my childhood dream," he said. "Since my family were very poor I wanted to change our fate by pursuing a footballing career."

Such ambition, coupled with a raw passion for the game, provided consistent motivation for Hau to maintain his development. He joined the youth team of Hanoi FC in 2010 and eventually graduated into the first team in 2017.

The next two years saw Hau thrive on the domestic scene, winning two league titles with Hanoi FC plus a Vietnam Super Cup title. At international level, Hau was an integrated part of the squad which qualified for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic. The landmark achievement was amplified as Vietnam became the first Southeast Asian nation to win a point at a men’s FIFA youth tournament.

Playing in the global showpiece, Vietnam's maiden FIFA tournament, served only to whet Hau’s thirst for greater success. "I was very excited to play at such a great competition. We underperformed and failed to get a win but that was where we began dreaming bigger - to qualify for the World Cup."

History in sight on road to Qatar 2022

Hau received his national team call-up when Korea Republic coach Park Hangseo was appointed Vietnam in 2017. Hau made rapid progress securing a regular place with the senior side and notably, he has played a key role at the back as Vietnam remained undefeated in Asia's ongoing second qualifying round for Qatar 2022.

With three wins and two draws, the Golden Dragon emerged surprise leaders in a group which also features regional rivals Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and United Arab Emirates. With three games left, the Southeast Asians are well placed hopeful to win through to the decisive third qualifying round for the first time.

"Of course we are in the driving seat in this group and have some sort of advantage,” said Hau. “However, nothing can be taken for granted and in football anything can happen.”

Leading second-placed Malaysia by two points, Vietnam can consolidate top spot with a victory against their neighbouring rivals when the competition resumes in October. They will then host struggling Indonesia, before taking on UAE in the closing game.

"These three matches are important for us. We have to do our utmost to earn maximum points and to secure a place in the next round. I believe we can make it.

“Not only me, but every player wants to qualify for the World Cup. I will do my best to help my team and I believe that we can pull off further surprises. Do what you can and believe in yourself. Nothing is impossible.”