The upcoming Lunar New Year has struck a sad note in the coaching career of several sports managers in the northern Vietnamese city of Hai Phong, as they have gone from coaches by day to kumquat sellers by night in order to afford a decent holiday celebration.
The special Tet kumquat sellers include taekwondo and aerobic coaches and a football referee, all of whom work at the Hai Phong athlete training center.
With the center only granting meager cash bonuses for Tet, the sports coaches have jointly contributed to their unexpected business in order to earn extra money before the upcoming holiday.
The trio now sells kumquat pots and Tet gift baskets on the sidewalk near the city’s youth culture house.
“Our cash bonuses for Tet are only VND1.5 million [US$67] each, so we need extra work to collect enough money for the holiday,” one of the sellers, taekwondo coach Tran Thi Phuong Thao, explained.
Thao said asking the center for more was out of the question, considering even the director was given the same paltry bonus.
Sitting next to Thao, aerobic coach T., who was too embarrassed to give her full name, admitted that this is the first time the sports coaches have decided to sell kumquat to have extra income for Tet.
“Our ‘mutual capital’ is so modest that we can only afford to sell small pots of kumquats valued at VND100,000 [$4.46] each,” she said.
“We managed to sell a few dozen of them over the last two days and have brought in a small profit.”
Courtesy of coach Pham Cao Son
Thao said her and her cohorts have no experience of doing business and feel ashamed for having to bargain with customers.
The coaches take turn to look after their goods and often call for help from family members when they are too busy with their primary responsibility– training the Hai Phong athletes.
The story of the kumquat-selling coaches in Hai Phong was first made known to the public by coach Pham Cao Son, head of the city’s shooting division.
Son took a photo of his colleagues selling the trees on the sidewalk and posted the picture on his Facebook, calling on locals to “come and help them earn extra income for their family this Tet.”
No Tet bonus for sportspeople
Tuoi Tre brought the sad story of the Hai Phong coaches to Vuong Bich Thang, head of the General Department of Sports and Physical Training, and was told that there is currently no state policy stipulating Tet bonuses for athletes.
Only some sports training centers with extra profits are able to give small gifts to their athletes, he said.
Indeed, female wrestler Vu Thi Hang, a Rio 2016 contestant, confirmed to Tuoi Tre that during her nine years of wrestling for Hanoi and the national team, she has never received a Tet bonus.
“We have received nothing – not even a small gift basket,” she said.
Similarly, a coach working at the national sport training center in Hanoi said most athletes and coaches will return to their hometown for Tet celebration “with no gifts for their family, not even a new calendar.”
Athletes on national teams currently receive an average monthly wage of VND3.6 million ($161), and Thang says said the sports ministry is slated to submit a government proposal for higher pay.
“If approved, the proposal may help reduce the hardships faced by local athletes and coaches,” he said.