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Blind coach nurtures kids' football dream

By Ngoc Tai   July 21, 2022 | 12:00 am PT
Blind coach nurtures kids' football dream
Pham Van Sanh gives tactical instruction for his football students on the field in Dong Thap Province. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Tai
Every morning, Pham Van Sanh is led to the field by a student, awaited by 40 others of all ages.

As he blows the whistle, the kids begin warming up. When they are ready, Sanh lets the young players practice passing while the goalkeepers work on saving and clearing the ball.

Using his excellent hearing and memory, Sanh knows exactly where the ball is and whether players are using the right technique. On the other side of the field, he similarly oversees U14 and U15s playing each other, improving on formations when needed.

"These kids have been my light and joy for the past three years," Sanh said.

The 34-year-old man from Hong Ngu District of Dong Thap Province in the Mekong Delta discovered his passion for football as a boy and grew up playing for several provincials teams.

A traffic accident took away his vision at the peak of his career and he had thought of killing himself, but family support kept him around and football once again brought meaning to his life.

Sanh lost his father as a kid. His mother worked multiple jobs to raise him and his brother. In fourth grade, the school selected him for the football team, sparking his passion. Since he didn't have enough money to buy a proper soccer ball, he used coconuts or a drinking can as an alternative. He also learned to enhance his stamina by watching professional players exercising on TV.

His hard-working mentality got him into the U11 team of Hong Ngu District, where he competed with other local teams from across the province. In the same year, the province selected him to the squad for the national U11 tournament. Since then, he remained on the local radar. Sanh joined Dong Thap FC's youth team at 16.

In the following years, Sanh played as a winger for teams across neighboring provinces on loan. Later, he joined several provincial teams like Kien Giang, Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Ben Tre. In 2016, about to return to Dong Thap FC, tragedy struck.

"I lost all motivation and wanted to leave this life but with the encouragement and support from friends and family, I couldn't be that selfish. With the life motto "down but not out," Sanh grew used to the dark and his surroundings. After a mere few months, Sanh was able to help his mother to cook and clean.

Three years ago, Sanh started visiting the training field, where some kids asked him to coach them.

Sanh founded Dam Me (Passion) FC, with the number of students increasing day by day. They suggested he change the name to Phan Van Sanh Community FC. A year later, club numbers hit 400.

The zero-fee club adopts strict criteria. Players must have an average or higher academic level, and not be addicted to video games, swearing and smoking.

The young students of Sanh on the field. Photo by Ngoc Tai

The young students of Sanh on the field in Dong Thap Province. Photo by Ngoc Tai

Pham Nhat Duy had joined Sanh's club at the beginning. In the summer, the 13-year-old boy practiced both morning and afternoon. The young goalkeeper said Sanh had taught him basic movements, how to catch the ball and to deal with one-on-one situations.

"I will be selected for competitions in the near future," Duy said.

Pham Thi La, the mother of a student in Sanh's club, was very surprised when her son asked to join the team. She was skeptical but didn't stop him. Instead, she secretly visited the field to observe her son. La was surprised by Sanh's teaching method.

"Sanh knows everything that is happening on the field. I must say he is very good," La said.

Though Sanh teaches for free, parents sometimes contribute toward renting the training ground and transportation.

In the recent two years, when Sanh heard the Promotion Fund of Vietnamese Football Talent Academy (PVF) was recruiting talents in Dong Thap, he took some of his students for tryouts. So far, two students have been selected by PVF and are currently training in Da Nang. Last year, at the U13 tournament in Hong Ngu District, the team led by Sanh won the championship, while the U11 team finished second.

His biggest wish now is to restore his sight and obtain more training equipment.

Pham Van Sanh coaches young football students in Dong Thap Province. Video by VnExpress/Thanh Tien

 
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