U.21 contest finds new talent

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The Thanh Nien-sponsored National Under-21 Football Tournament has been going on for 15 years, and throughout the years many outstanding players have been discovered for U-23 and national football teams.

There have been no exact statistics about how many of these players have become exceptional at the national and professional level.

However, most that have played exceptionally well at the tournament have become some of the favorite players in the U-23 and national teams.

When the tournament first began in 1997 in Hanoi (it was the Under-22 contest), a number of players from The Cong, Dong Thap, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City displayed excellent performances and became well-known later.

They included Thach Bao Khanh, Dang Phuong Nam, Nguyen Quoc Trung, Truong Viet Hoang, Nguyen Manh Dung and Nguyen Tuan Thanh.

In the following year's event, the Under-21 contest was held in Ho Chi Minh City and such names as Phung Thanh Phuong, Nguyen Minh Phuong, Nguyen Huu Thang, Pham Nhu Thuan, Nguyen Trung Vinh, Dang Thanh Phuong, Doan Hung Son and Nguyen Ngoc Tho became familiar to football fans.

In 1999, the tournament was organized in the central city of Da Nang, and new names from such clubs as The Cong, Da Nang and Dong Tam Long An were in the spotlight. They included Vu Vu Thanh, Do Ngoc The, Le Thanh Xuan.

The event in 2000 saw great performances from such players as Nguyen Huy Hoang, Ho Thanh Thuong and Phan Van Tai Em, and goalkeeper Nguyen The Anh at Ho Chi Minh City's Thong Nhat Stadium.

In 2002, a young, talented player named Pham Van Quyen displayed his gifts at Chi Lang Stadium in Da Nang City and was called by then national coach Henrique Calisto to join the national team to participate in the ASEAN Football Federation Cup (then called the Tiger Cup).

After that, lots of other excellent players at the U.21 tournament joined the national team almost immediately. In 2003, outstanding players included Nguyen Minh Duc, Nguyen Anh Duc, Huynh Quoc Anh, Chau Le Phuoc Vinh, Phan Thanh Phuc and, most notably Le Cong Vinh who is still the country's number one player.

The 2004 competition continued to introduce good players such as Le Tan Tai, Tran Hai Lam, Nguyen Vu Phong and Huynh Quang Thanh.

Pham Thanh Luong and Tran Duc Duong became famous after the 2005 tournament; Nguyen Thanh Long Giang and Huynh Phuc Hiep became well-known in 2006; and Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Trong Hoang and Hoang Van Binh became famous after the 2007 contest.

Nguyen Duc Thien, Hoang Dinh Tung, Phan Thanh Hung and Vo Hoang Quang attracted attention after the 2008 event; Tran Dinh Dong and Pham Nguyen Sa turned famous after the 2009 tournament and Nguyen Van Quyet, Le Hoang Thien and Nguyen Tuan Manh got to be known to the public after the 2010 competition.

In addition to the above-mentioned names, other players have also displayed excellent performances and have had great contributions to their clubs as well as the country at different levels.

Many any players who are favorites on their clubs have had intensive training and competed at the Thanh Nien-sponsored U.21 Football Tournament.

Nguyen Hong Thanh, formerly the manager of the Song Lam Nghe An Club's U-21 team, said, "The Under-21 tournament is a great opportunity for young players to display their best performances, and if they are superb players there, they can participate in more competitive competitions."

Nguyen Dat Hung, former coach of Ho Chi Minh City Police Club, who coached the Vietnam's U-21 team at a tournament in Argentina in 2001, said, "Whether Vietnamese players can play in competitive tournaments depends very much on the yearly U.21 Football Tournament sponsored by Thanh Nien. This tournament is a place to select young football talents for Vietnam."

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