TV-addled Vietnamese tribe names children after soccer, soap opera stars

Thanh Nien News

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Lui (R) holds his three months old son who he wanted to name after Brazilian striker Neymar. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre Lui (R) holds his three months old son who he wanted to name after Brazilian striker Neymar. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre


Lui, a young member of the Ba Na ethnic group in the Central Highlands, made his way to a small commune office to apply for his two-day old son's birth certificate last November.
“N-â-y M-a,” he said proudly to Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu, the civil affairs official of A Dok Commune in Dak Doa District, Gia Lai Province.
“It’s strange; it doesn’t sound like a Ba Na name,” Thu said and decided to hold off on issuing the certificate.
Lui tried to explain his choice, but Thu was not convinced, so he left.
Ten days later, he returned with a new name: “Car-Los.”
Thu asked him to go speak with the commune chairman, after which he agreed to cut the name down to Los.
“My wife became pregnant with him during the World Cup and I had just gone crazy for Neymar,” Lui told a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter as he cradled his son, now three months old.
He decided to name the boy “Nây Ma,” a Vietnamese transcription of the captain of the Brazil national team captain (Neymar).
A month after his son's birth, The UK Guardian ranked Neymar the sixth best player in the world.
After failing to register that name, Lui turned to his other Brazilian idol, the retired Roberto Carlos who is included on FIFA's list of the world’s 100 greatest living players.
The explosion of television in the lives of the Ba Na community a couple years ago resulted in a generation of rural children named after Latin American football stars and Korean TV stars.
When a Tuoi Tre reporter visited another family in the commune, the father screamed to his son: “Met Xi! Shower time!”
Krup, the father, said he named his 4-year-old son after the Barcelona striker Lionel Messi, whose performance he called “so satisfactory.”
“I never miss a Messi game,” he said. 
He said he has been waiting to bring the name into the family for a while but his first two kids were girls.
“My third child was luckily a son, so I immediately named him Met Xi. I hope he will play football as well as his namesake.”
A Nhuy, another Ba Na father, name his 3-year-old after former Brazilian footballer Cafu, the nickname for Marcos Evangelista de Morais, one of the greatest Brazilian players of his generation.
A coffee buyer who is familiar with the Ba Na said every newborn that comes into the world during a Euro or World Cup is likely to receive a footballer's name.
"They love football," he said. 
“During a season, each family puts their television at the door so they can cheer together. Names that dominate a season get stamped on the babies after that.”
Many babies born between 2010 and 2012 were named after South Korean soap opera stars, like Hy Chong, who was named after actress Kang Hye-jung.
Some families found enough TV stars to provide handles for all of their seven or eight kids.
Khunh, a local, said people had a good rubber season back then, allowing many families to buy a TV.
Soon, every woman in the commune was hooked on Korean soap operas.
Thu, a member of the country’s dominant Kinh ethnic group, said Vietnamese laws allow people to give their children any name they like, but she has been encouraging the community to stick to Ba Na names to keep their culture alive.
“I feel regretful that they don’t give their children beautiful Ba Na names, and stick them with all those strange-sounding names instead.”
Any visitor to the commune can now watch Messi, Cafu, and Hy Chong chase each other around in bare feet and muddy faces.

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