Income instability, loneliness, and nostalgia are among many challenges that returning Vietnamese-born players like Khoa Tran, who is currently playing for the Vietnamese national basketball team, have faced during their professional pursuit of the sport in Vietnam.
While Vietnamese basketball has gradually developed in recent years, it has yet to provide players with a stable monthly income, which is a drawback for those of Vietnamese origin who have decided to return and contribute to their homeland.
Making ends meet with side jobs
The Vietnam Professional Basketball League (VBA) only takes place for a few months, so it means that players only get earnings for part of the year.
For the rest of the year, players like Khoa Tran have to earn a living through other means.
Financial issues have remained a notable challenge for the Vietnamese-born player, now 24, since his return to Vietnam to follow his passion for basketball when he was 19.
“I realized that just playing basketball is not enough to make ends meet,” Khoa Tran said during an interview.
“So I found other jobs to earn money, like participating in TV shows, the income from which is not much, but it is better than just relying on salaries from basketball.”
In addition to participating in events and TV shows, Khoa Tran also opened a personal YouTube channel to share about the life of a professional player with his fans.
Not only Khoa, but many other VBA stars like Tam Dinh, Justin Young, and Stefan Tuan Tu also have side jobs such as modeling, event guests, or running a training center to earn extra income.
|Khoa Tran takes possession of the ball during a VBA game. Photo: VBA|
Loneliness and nostalgia
Khoa Tran’s pursuit of basketball in Vietnam has been no walk in the park.
Playing a sport requiring much physical competition such as basketball, the defender is no stranger to injury.
“I’ve been elbowed five times and had my right eye bleed once due to a collision with my own teammate,” Khoa Tran recalled.
“I’m used to it now.”
Apart from injuries on the court, the player has had to handle emotional instability staying far away from his family, none of whom has ever played professional basketball.
Khoa Tran thus could hardly share what he was going through.
“My family is living in the U.S. while I’m here all alone,” he said.
“I definitely miss my grandma, I miss my family, but because I love basketball too much, I decided to stay here.”
Despite those difficulties, his talent and efforts have helped him grow.
After making his name with the famous Saigon Heat, he became the captain of Nha Trang Dolphins during the 2020 VBA.
He also highlighted his career with two historic bronze medals at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games as a member of the Vietnamese national basketball squad.
The 2019 SEA Games was also the first time Vietnamese basketball had stepped up to the medal podium in the regional competition thanks to the merit of star players like Khoa Tran.
“I've been playing basketball my whole life and that’s why I’m here now,” he said.
“I only hope for the best and that basketball will take me further.”
Currently, he continues to gain trust from the Vietnamese team’s coaching board and has been called up to the team for the 2021 SEA Games.
“My mother did not want me to go to Vietnam to play basketball, she wanted me to stay in the U.S. to go to school,” he shared.
“But now she has changed her mind.
“My dream is that my entire family will come to Vietnam to watch me compete for once.
“If it comes true, I will be overjoyed.”