It was the Christmas Eve when Vietnam played against Thai Lan for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2008 championship. Pressure was high, and Le Cong Vinh stepped up to become the hero of the Christmas Eve.
Tremendously important and sensationally beautiful header from Le Cong Vinh helped Vietnam equalize the score in the final match of AFF Suzuki Cup 2008 and supported the Golden Star Warriors succeeded the championship of the tournament. It was a battle cry of Vietnam national team, perhaps the most prestigious accomplishment that the nation has ever achieved.
But the task would not be done if Cong Vinh was not there – timing the pass at the right time, jumping up and scoring a beautiful header in the net of Thailand. Throughout the whole tournament of AFF Suzuki Cup 2008, Cong Vinh was not the best striker of Vietnam national team, if did not want to say the worst one.
In the group stage matches and the semi-final, Nguyen Vu Phong was the better striker than the former striker of Song Lam Nghe An.
It was Vu Phong who scored an important goal against Malaysia to seal the qualification to the semi-final for Vietnam. And it was Vu Phong who scored the opening goal in the first leg of the final match of AFF Suzuki Cup 2008.
Cong Vinh only scored two goals throughout the entire competition, but when he scored, he did it in a classy way. His infamous header goal will always be reminded whenever we talk about the top 10 most important goals of Vietnam national team.
In the recent vote for the top 10 most beautiful goal in AFF Suzuki Cup history, Cong Vinh’s goal was in the top 3. His header is recognizable not only in Vietnam, but in the Southeast Asia region.
Cong Vinh was born in Dec. 10th, 1985 into a poor family living in Nghe An, and because the family was so poor, Vinh’s father decided to sell drugs with hope that he could change his family fortune. Sadly, it was because of selling drugs that Vinh’s family was forever torn apart from each other.
His father received a statement of 8 years in jail for selling illegal drugs. The shock happened to Vinh when he was only 13 years old. However, it did not knock out the future of Vinh. He loved soccer at the very young age, and keep practicing with the ball daily with hope that he could participate in the youth academy of Song Lam Nghe An-his homeland club.
At the age of 14, the teenager Cong Vinh joined the youth academy of Song Lam Nghe An. But it was not an easy journey for the teenager after all. Vinh was accepted to practice with the youth academy, but none of the coaches of youth academy thought that he would be able to make it.
Vinh was not a pure talent compared to other home-growth talents such as Van Quyen and Quoc Vuong.
But the passion and the dedication of the youngster was so strong that it convinced Song Lam Nghe An to give him a chance with the first team. At the age of 18, Cong Vinh was the regular choice of Song Lam Nghe An first squad after showing his class in the JVC Cup tournament in Ho Chi Minh city.
The former young talent of Song Lam Nghe An academy then had a chance to work with Anfred Riedl at Sea Games 22 (2003), the tournament that Vietnam won the silver medal.
Cong Vinh nearly jumped straight forward from the academy in just one year which was not what he expected. At the beginning, Vinh was modest about his talent, so when the chance arrived, he cashed it in with no looking back or skepticism.
The youngster of Song Lam Nghe An made it to the national team in 2004 at Tiger Cup, and though the national team did not win the trophy, Vinh got a tournament for himself when he scored a total of 4 goals.
In that year, Cong Vinh also won the Vietnam Golden Ball for the first time. However, it was not until the Christmas Eve of 2008 that Cong Vinh proclaimed his legendary status. Cong Vinh was a good player, but that is it.
No one called him as a legendary player, perhaps not until he won the AFF Suzuki Cup with Vietnam national team and scored one of the most beautiful goal in the history of the tournament.
His career can be shadowed forever if that moment had not happened. It was a beautiful night for the Christians fellows, and for Le Cong Vinh, it was the life-changing game.
And after all, Cong Vinh was like a Christmas angel of Vietnam national team. He arrived at the right time and in the right moment to score a tremendously important goal for the national team.
It was a classy header that change his status from a good player to a legendary player. It is the 35th birthday of the legend today. Happy birthday to Cong Vinh! Wish you all the best.