Football brings Vietnamese-Canadian couple together

By Pham Nga   November 6, 2021 | 05:15 am PT
Football brings Vietnamese-Canadian couple together
Le Thi Thuy Nga (R) and her husband Michael in HCMC after Vietnam won the SEA Games gold medal in December 2019. Photo courtesy of the couple
Thanks to football, Le Thi Thuy Nga found Michael, who came all the way from Canada to Vietnam to be with her.

In a rented apartment in Thu Duc City, the couple's favorite corner is filled with flags, banners and photos taken together on the streets of Saigon after Vietnam's big games.

"These are Michael’s memories of the first time he experienced the football atmosphere in Vietnam. He said he has never experienced such football craze anywhere," Nga said.

Three years ago, they met on an online dating app. Nga was looking for a serious relationship then.

Michael, as he wished to be known, was into Nga the first time he saw her photo.

"She is beautiful and has really cute eyes," he said.

A few days later, he texted her a long introduction of himself. His hobbies were football, swimming, playing guitar and painting.

Nga also considers herself one of the biggest football fans.

"I'm a fan of the English Premier League and I can stay up all night watching my favorite teams play. I also don’t miss any Euro or World Cup games," Nga said.

After finding out Michael enjoyed the same hobbies, Nga sent him a link to watch the AFC U23 Championships 2018 final between Vietnam and Uzbekistan. They stayed in touch throughout the game despite a 13-hour time difference. Michael was most impressed by midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai, who has a modest height but great talent.

Nga told Micheal she used to play for her high school’s football team, with the latter revealing he was once the goalkeeper of his school’s team and a key player in the basketball squad.

Football stories soon switched to tales of life. Their video calls kept getting longer. Michael talked about his tough childhood after his parents divorced, while Nga told him about her big family that also love football.

"I want to go to Vietnam and meet your family," Micheal told her.

One day, the Canadian decided to confess his love. "Quick and decisive like when Quang Hai scored," Nga said.

Four months later, he went to Vietnam.

"He always has everything planned out," she said. Before moving here, Michael had applied to be an English teacher in Saigon. What made Nga appreciate him even more was his willingness to sacrifice everything back home to be with her.

Nga, a fashion designer, then lived in a 15-square-meter room in the city. There was not much space and it’s hot in there too, but nothing stopped Michael from supporting his girlfriend. He stopped by to help her with the dishes every day.

"Michael is also an animal lover. Sometimes he’s like a child. He made friends with some geckos and ants in my room and also saved them some food," Nga said.

Michael experienced Nga’s kindness when she shared food with the security guards in the neighborhood.

After work, they often ride their motorbike around Saigon, watch football on the Nguyen Hue walking street or a cafe. When Vietnam won the SEA Games football gold medal after 30 years in December 2019, the couple joined the crowd on the street and only returned after midnight. For the first time ever, Michael saw the football fans here bringing pots, pans and buckets onto the street to celebrate.

Michael and Thuy Nga during a trip to Phu Quoc Island in 2019.

Le Thi Thuy Nga and her husand Michael during a trip to Phu Quoc Island in 2019. Photo courtesy of the couple

When Covid hit, everyone was forced to stay inside and they watched a lot of football at home together. During the Euros, Nga supported Belgium, England and Denmark while Michael rooted for the underdogs.

As a geography enthusiast, Michael is Nga’s personal commentator in every game. Nga knows the rules better than him so sometimes she has to explain things a little.

The couple intended to tie the knot in the south central province of Phu Yen, Nga’s hometown, in late 2019. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they only registered for marriage and have not hold a wedding ceremony yet.

In their rented apartment in Saigon, the couple grows vegetables and flowers on the balcony. Michael, 33, and his 32-year-old wife are working hard to earn enough money to build a small house in the countryside next to the mountains. At that place, there is a lake, a football field, a yard and a path to the mountains.

"Nga still hopes to watch Vietnam play at every stadium. I promised my wife that we’ll work together to make that dream come true," Michael said.

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