Friends and relatives of Mr. Vo Quoc Thinh (teacher at the Art Center) call him “Thinh with disability” after he became the coach of the football club for children with disability sponsored by the Football Association of Norway (NFF).
Thinh was called so because he was close-knit with the students with disability that he has been teaching. It is very touching for me in particular every time I see the students practice with Thinh. Since the first day Thinh and his students got to know each other, it seemed to me that the students understood what their teacher was talking about; they surrounded their teacher and talked with him familiarly. I know they understood because they laughed cheerfully, and friendly nodded their head and their eyes shown admiration to their teacher while they could not hear their teacher’s voice. Thinh did try to “listen” and understand his students’ questions, then used all the gestures and eye contacts to explain things that the students did not understand.
Other football coaches use their whistle to manage their training but whistle doesn’t work when it comes to the students with hearing impairment. Hence, he must run after his students on the play field. His hand becomes numb after every training session because he has to use a flag to signal. Many times he has to rush quickly to his students to “tell” them that the player is in an offside position, or that they cannot use their hand to manage the ball or that over lifts their foot when kicking the ball. Their students understand, nod their head and shake their teacher’s hand as an apology. Running after his students for 90 minutes makes Thinh “desperately tired”, like he put it, but he is still happy because the students are excited about the training.
“Without this playground, one cannot imagine how the students’ life will be like, so I just help them whatever I can help”, Thinh confides.
At the beginning, he used his own languages and gestures and the students understood well. But because Thinh wants to be more close to his students, he tries to learn their language. Then he tries to know more about his students so that he can not only help them in football but also in building their personality. “I want them to be honest, helpful to each other, calm, disciplined and altruistic. Those personalities help them in football and in their life as well.” Thinh said.
Mr. Vo Quoc Thinh cheerfully talks about his students.
Talking of altruism, Thinh was pretty sad. There is a team member who is in the habit of petty larceny. He once stole an expensive phone of a tennis player on the Centre’s tennis playing field. He had been doing this for many times, so he was hated by all other team members. Many people told Thinh to expel him from the club. But if he is no longer with the team, where would he play? If he does not have a good environment to practice, he may commit social evils. Thinh’s thought was different from others’ and he decided to keep this student. Along with educating the bad students, Thinh advises other students to forgive the student’s fault and give him opportunity to be a better individual. Recently, he is aware of his fault and shows no sign of bad habit anymore..”
The chance brought Thinh to the students with disabilities happened 8 years ago, when Thinh led his province’s football team to Quang Tri to play with other teams from all over the country. What impressed him most was when the students sang the national anthem by their hand when saluting the flag at the opening ceremony. Then at the competitions, all of the students were excited about football. After 10 days of competitions, of living together, the teacher and the students love and esteem each other very much. Back to Hue, Thinh was obsess with the students’ lighten faces and excited eyes when chasing the ball.
That was the end of the 2007’s winter. Since then, the intention of teaching students with disabilities and bringing them more happiness had strongly urged Thinh. With the help from the leader of the Art Center, Thinh sent his suggestion to Mrs. Thu Ha, who was then the Director of Department of Education and Training. “Mrs. Ha encouraged me much, so early in 2008 I confidently accepted my mission. At first it was quite difficult because of the “language barrier” but then we understood and got on well with each other”, Thinh shared.
So, Thinh volunteered to be coach for the special “players”. Twice a week, Thinh spends his time and efforts to train his students to play football. 8 months later, NFF sponsored the project of football for children with disabilities. The students were allowed to practice and play at the Art Center Football Club. Thinh was the happiest person because his students had a nice playground with artificial grass. They are also equipped with clothes and tools for practice. The happier was that when the students do not continue their school education, they still have the chance to get close to each other and learn about life lessons. Thinh said: “If NFF no longer sponsors for the club, I will continue my training for the team.”
10 yeas have gone by so fast; the students now have grown up. They are no longer students. And each of them has their own job. Some leave their hometown in search of job. Some stay in Hue, working while still playing football. The bond between teacher and students has become stronger. The students who are living far from Hue usually pay a visit to the team and their friends. And in Tet Holiday or Teacher’s day, the students arrange to visit their teacher.
Some days ago, I met Phuong, Dai, Cuong, Dong, Sy at the football club, I asked them (by writing down on a paper):
– Was Mr. Thinh kind with you?
All of them give a thump up, meaning “Great, wonderful!”
– Do you love your teacher?
And all of them put their hand on their heart, meaning “Really love!”
If I tell Thinh about this, he will surely smile – the smile that we see every time he meets his close relatives.
Đinh Hoàng Xuân Hồng (Mother of Nam Phuong – A player of the Art Center football club)