Midfielder Pham Thanh Luong, who announced his international retirement late last year, has become the first-ever Vietnamese player to claim four Golden Balls, the country’s most prestigious individual football award, after being named the winner at the 2016 awards ceremony on Wednesday in Ho Chi Minh City.
Luong, 29, surpassed his national teammates, Luong Xuan Truong and Vu Minh Tuan, to take home the fourth Golden Ball.
Though Luong was pleased with his achievement, even he agreed that there were no prominent candidates for the 2016 award, with Vietnam eliminated from the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup, Southeast Asia’s top football competition, after the semifinals in December.
“The title might have been given to me because of my performance with my club, Hanoi T&T, which won the 2016 V-League 1,” Luong said after the awards ceremony.
V-League 1 is Vietnam’s top-flight league, and “winning this earned [Luong] an advantage over other candidates,” the midfielder added.
“The [Golden Ball] victory brought me joy and happiness,” he admitted.
Following the national team’s disappointing journey at the AFF Cup, Luong announced his retirement from the national squad in order to fully devote his efforts to the Hanoi-based club.
Another veteran player, former captain Le Cong Vinh, decided to quit football completely.
Vinh and Le Huynh Duc, Vietnam’s top striker back in the mid-1990s, won three Golden Balls each in their career, though both now stand behind the record-making Luong and his four titles.
Still, Luong said he never aimed at winning as many titles as possible.
“What is most important to me is the love from my supporters,” he said.
“It’s a great pity that I will no longer play for the national team, but I am playing at the V-League 1 and will continue to devote myself to my fans.”
The Vietnam Golden Ball award has been given annually by the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) newspaper since 1995.