Nguyen Ba Ky, in his 20s, has traveled from his hometown in the north-central province of Nghe An to the southern city to root for Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA) Football Club in the ninth round of Vietnam’s top-flight football league, the V-League 1, on Sunday.
According to Truong Thanh Tung, a senior member of the SLNA fan club in the southern region, he has never seen such a passionate supporter during his 15 years of being a football fan.
Football has been his zeal since Ky was a young boy, as he often played with his friends after school.
In 2001, when he was attending sixth grade, Ky was unable to walk due to the severe pain in his legs, a condition that was later diagnosed as polyarthritis, accompanied by problems to the pelvic ligaments.
The boy was admitted to a local hospital and then transferred to Hanoi for further treatment.
Following three months of unsuccessful attempts, Ky became disabled as his legs and right arm were paralyzed while he could only move three fingers on his left hand.
Ky returned to Nghe An just to find out his father had died of a stroke, leaving the family on the shoulders of his mother.
As computers and the Internet became a rising trend in Vietnam in 2005, the young man wished he could have a desktop to be able to acquire some skills to help his mother support the family.
The dream became a reality in 2009, when a local official gifted Ky a computer set after he was informed of his circumstances.
His physical condition really created a challenge for Ky but he still managed to learn how to fix computers and software, which became his source of living.
The man moved on to establish an online forum to connect handicapped people in Vietnam, where he first met his wife. The two tied the knot, after confronting all kinds of protest from his wife’s family, in 2012.
Football is life’s meaning
Ky has rarely missed a match played by SLNA although their home games take place at Vinh Stadium, some 15 kilometers away from his house.
The diehard fan often asks his wife or friends to tow his wheelchair, modified to become a mobile bed, to the stadium with their motorcycles.
His trips to the pitch are not trouble-free, as the bumpy roads sometimes caused Ky to be thrown off his bed, while unpredictable rains could dampen the man any time.
Some people have wondered why Ky has not chosen to watch the games on TV to avoid all the hardships.
“If everyone watches the matches at home, no player will want to compete. Football is utterly boring without the enthusiasm from its fans,” Ky answered.
As more people have begun to lose their interest in the football matches played at Vinh Stadium, as well as at other arenas in Vietnam, Ky decided to make the trip to Ho Chi Minh City to inspire other football lovers in the country.
He hoped that his verve would encourage footballers to devote more in their games to win the heart of their fans.
Saving every penny
Ky’s travel was sponsored by Nguyen Duc Thang, manager of SLNA, who had offered him VND10 million (US$439) to realize his dream.
The disabled man decided to travel a long way by coach to save cost instead of going by plane or train.
“I can only earn some VND5 million [$219] a month. I have to save up every penny to take care of my two children,” Ky said.
“Although the money was a gift from Thang, I should not waste it,” he continued, adding that he knew how hard it is to make money, especially for handicapped people.
Ky and his wife arrived in the southern city on March 9, being quite startled by the bustling lifestyle of the metropolis.
After contacting some fellow enthusiasts from the SLNA fan club in Ho Chi Minh City, the couple received much support in terms of accommodation and transportation.
Ky’s presence at the Thong Nhat Stadium in the Saigon FC-SLNA game at 6:00 pm this Sunday is expected to be a real encouragement for both the organizers and players at the V-League 1, as they would not want to disappoint this special fan.