In Vietnam, you can talk with ‘world football stars’ such as Messi (Lionel Messi), Carlos (Roberto Carlos), and Cafu (Marcos Evangelista de Morais); or ‘Korean actors/actresses’ like Hy Chong, San U and Cha Ri anytime.
The ‘young stars’ are always present at a village of the Ba Na ethnic minority in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.
Ba Na is one of 54 ethnic groups currently recognized by the Vietnamese government.
They are actually children, named for these stars after major football events such as the FIFA World Cup or the UEFA European Championship, or after a Korean film airs on Vietnamese television.
Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu, a local civil status registry official in A Dok Commune in Dak Doa District of Gia Lai Province, said the Ba Na people are not banned from using the names but are encouraged to use aboriginal names instead.
TV sets change names of locals
With electricity and television now accessible in remote rural areas in the Central Highlands region, villagers can watch FIFA World Cup matches and emotional films produced by South Korea or China on TV.
In late 2014, a young Ba Na father brought a stack of papers to the People’s Committee of A Dok Commune to register the birth of his son.
Often, Ba Na parents complete the papers months after a child is born, but this time the father was eager to register two days after birth.
“What is the name of your son?” asked the official.
“Nây Ma,” replied the father.
“Why does it sound so strange, not like a Ba Na name?” the official questioned.
The Ba Na father admitted, “When my wife was conceiving Los, the 2014 FIFA World Cup was ongoing.
“I went crazy watching ‘Nây Ma’ of the Brazilian team. He was fantastic but it’s a shame that he was injured and had to sit on the bench.
“I promised myself that I would name my son after him.”
The case was later forwarded to the chairman of A Dok Commune. The chairman invited the father to his office for a meeting and the father then agreed to change the ‘non-Ba Na’ name to “Car Los”.
After much persuasion, the father agreed to change the name a second time, to just Los.
“Nây Ma” and “Car Los” are the Vietnamese pronunciations of Neymar and (Roberto) Carlos – the current and former football stars of Brazil.
Thu, the official from the commune, explained that, “It is legal for locals to choose the names they like, but I feel regret when they ignore aboriginal names.”
Local officials have to gather residents at meetings and church ceremonies to persuade them to use Ba Na names instead of non-native monikers.
Meeting super stars anytime
With this trend, a visitor can meet a ‘world star’ by chance without their knowledge in the Central Highlands villages of Dj Rong, Broch 1, and Broch 2.
Visitors can see Ka Phu (Cafu), Met Xi (Messi), Cha Ri and Hy Chong in mud-spattered clothes playing with one another in the alleys of the villages.
A Ba Na father named Krup was holding his son Met Xi, who is almost four, and said, “I love Met Xi and have watched all his matches.
“I wanted to name one of my children after him but my wife bore only girls.
“In 2010, this boy was born and I gave him the name Met Xi. I hope he will play football as fantastically as Met Xi.”
In Ba Na villages, men often place their television sets in their front gardens for neighbors to gather and watch football when the FIFA World Cup or UEFA European Championships take place.
They like joining together to cheer during the matches for fun.
A Nhuy, the father of Ka Phu in a Ba Na village, admitted, “I saw neighbors use the good player names to name their children, so I selected Ka Phu [Cafu] for my son.”
Many families in Ba Na villages also used Korean cinema stars to name their children in addition to football stars.
Ba Na women are so addicted to Korean films that they watch and discuss them together while they work or chat during their free time.
A Ba Na woman may even cry while discussing a situation a character faced in the films.