Make the football your sweetheart, Serbian great tells Vietnamese youth

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Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic, known as the "Miracle Worker" said he saw great potential in young Vietnamese footballers but said there was need for considerable improvement in skills for them to become "really good players in the future."

They should develop real love for the ball and treat it as their sweetheart, the 67-year-old Serbian told the Vietnamese Under-21 footballers in the Central Highlands town of Pleiku, Gia Lai Province, on Monday morning.

The 67-year-old Serbian offered advice to the Vietnamese players when they came to see him train young players from Qatar's football academy Aspire in a practice session.

Milutinovic said, "You must know me, right? I've coached five different teams at the World Cup [Mexico in 1986, Costa Rica in 1990, the United States in 1994, Nigeria in 1998 and China in 2002 (therefore earning the "Miracle Worker" moniker)].

"I have some advice for you. I watched you play in your (2-0) win over Malaysia in the opener (of the Thanh Nien-sponsored Under-21 International Football Tournament). You have great potential for growth."

However, he said, the young players had to make great improvements to their skills.

 "You must look around carefully, keep calm and deal with all the situations in the most intelligent way. I could see you were impatient in several situations."

Then he asked, "Which ones of you were in the shirts numbered 4, 8, 9 and 10? You really impressed me. Like the player in the shirt number 8 [Nhat Nam], you were not a good playmaker, but a very, very good one. Keep trying, but you must play more calmly.

"And player in the shirt No.4 [Van Thang], you were a good leader in the defense and provided great support for the attackers. I think you will cause a lot of difficulty for my players [from Aspire] in the final group stage match [on Thursday]."

Later on Monday, Milutinovic continued to be the star attraction at the 5th edition of the annual U21 International Football Tournament. Several media outlets including HTV, VTC3 and VTV and reporters from Thailand's Siam Sports and different sports newspapers interviewed and asked to have photos taken with him.

Earlier, Milutinovic told Nguyen Cong Khe, chief of the event's organizing committee and chairman of Thanh Nien Media Corporation, "I am very pleased and grateful to the organizers for inviting me and the young players from Aspire to participate in this event.

"Your way of organization is great. In the future, I and the team from Aspire hope to be invited to this significant competition. As you know, I am a consultant for Aspire [Qatar's football academy] as well as Qatar Football Association in training young players for the World Cup 2022.

"Therefore, competitions like this Thanh Nien-sponsored event are very significant for us. I must watch all the matches at the event this time, write detailed reports about young football competitions to prepare for the future. And I am willing to help you if necessary.

In response, Khe said he would like to invite Milutinovic to come to Vietnam and participate in the Thanh Nien-sponsored international event in the future. The world-famous Serbian coach accepted the invitation immediately and promised he would return to Vietnam.

Milutinovic said he was glad and surprised to know that the Thanh Nien newspaper has organized the U21 National Football Competition for 15 years and the U21 international event for five years with better and better competitors.

Milutinovic said that this created great competitive opportunities for young players in region, and hoped Thanh Nien would keep up the good work.

On Tuesday afternoon, Milutinovic's wards from Aspire defeated Malaysia's U21 team 2-1 while Iran hammered Singapore 3-0.

After two losses, both Singapore (in Group A) and Malaysia (in Group B) have bowed out of the tournament.

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