Can you introduce yourself briefly?
I am Keven Nguyen, and I am a Vietnamese-American born and raised in America. And I am 18 years old.
How long have you been playing soccer? What positions do you play?
I’ve been playing soccer for 12 years. And I play Center Defensive Mid. I can also play left forward or left wing.
Which soccer academy did you attend? And for how long? Can you describe your experience at the academy?
Growing up, I play soccer just for fun until I joined Santa Rosa United Soccer Club at age 14. So as you can see, I’ve only really taken soccer seriously for 3-4 years before coming here to Hai Phong. During my 4 years at Santa Rosa United, I’ve learned a lot and played nearly every position. But my coach found out my strongest position is the Center Defensive Midfielder.
To my understanding, you also play American football. How do you balance the two sports, and what do you like best about each of them?
Well during the fall, there was soccer and football, it was pretty hard balancing the sport because it took up much of my time but it was really just time management and talking to the coaches about schedules. And I love soccer because it’s the beauty of the game of nonstop action. And I love football because the atmosphere of the fans and the players is just amazing. Both sports make the guys feel like a big family.
Why did you choose Hai Phong FC? Is there any particular reason about that choice?
They were the only team to call me and gave me a chance. And because the fans are very crazy and I like that. Hahaha the atmosphere is amazing.
How did your trial at Hai Phong FC go? How did the coaches and other players welcome you to the team?
It went well for some parts and bad for some parts of it. I knew what I did well and I knew what I did wrong. They were very welcoming. Now I get along with many of the players!
How different is the playing environment here, physically and mentally?
It’s a lot faster and more physical from my former club but then again, it was only a youth academy club.
For me with time change, and nervousness, playing mentality was a bit difficult. But as soon I slowly gained back my confidence, my mentality of playing changed positively.
Do you speak a lot of Vietnamese? Do you think the language barrier is a problem?
I speak about 40-50 percent. And yes because my accent is from the Hue area, and the accent up here is much heavier so it’s quite a problem.
How do you plan to overcome that barrier? Do your new teammates offer any help?
Yes, my roommate speaks English, so he will teach me along the way along with me just learning!
How do you describe people’s love for soccer here? What do you think about Vietnamese people’s passion for soccer?
The love for soccer fans have here is big. Everywhere you go, it’s just soccer. It’s not like America where you have a lot of sports, but I think the passion they have for it is amazing.
What is your impression of Vietnamese soccer? Have you ever watched the V-League or the national team?
I think it’s a good level for me to develop and compete at. I’ve watched 2 games in person, and it’s really a fast paced game. I would have to learn to play quickly!
Suppose one day you get a call up to both Vietnam and United States U-23 team, which one would be your choice?
I would choose the U.S. because I was born there.
What have you done to adjust to the new life here, both on and off the field?
Well really, the only thing I’ve had to adjust was really the lifestyle, the money, what you wear, and basically the language.
Like just the thought of living here for the next 3 years is going to be a lot different. I have to know the money system more, and the language and accent will be a challenge for me to pick up.
How about the foods? Do they fit your appetite?
Yes. Some of these food I eat, I actually grew up eating so I don’t mind it. However I do prefer American appetite more. I find it easier to maintain a good diet meal with American food.
What are your expectations for the level of soccer there? Do you think you can break into the first team any time soon?
I think the level is very high! And maybe not, but every training I will compete and work hard to get there as fast as I can!
Who is your soccer idol? Do you model your game after his?
And my soccer idol is Messi, but if I were to realistically pick a player ideally that isn’t a legend, it would be Sergio Busquets.
Would you like to send a message to all the soccer fans out there?
And my message to all the fans is “I am very blessed to be part of Hai Phong F.C. and the Hai Phong community. Thank you to all who supported me and wished me luck on making this team!”
Thank you for your time Keven!