I last saw Vietnam in 2001. Back then, Saigon had no American fast food joints save a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Long-term foreign residents were few, and mostly confined to the Phạm Ngũ Lão area. There were no foreign stars in the just-established professional soccer league.
Now in Saigon, there are 20 KFCs, eight Burger Kings and six McDonald’s, with one across the street from where I used to live, five miles from downtown.
In December of 2007, an Afro-Brazilian soccer player, Fábio dos Santos, changed his name to Phan Văn Santos and became Vietnamese. This, in a country where millions had risked death or imprisonment trying to get out not too long before. In 2008, Santos was on Vietnam’s national team in a friendly match against, um, Brazil! Santos on his new status:
I am very happy to become Vietnamese. The new citizenship will help me greatly in my career and maybe help the national team as well. I have been living and working in Vietnam for six years. I think my decision was the right one, even though it was very difficult. To my surprise, my parents support my decision. When I return to Brazil in the future, I will be a guest, not a citizen… Sometimes I felt sad because I had to give up my Brazilian citizenship. But my becoming Vietnamese is God’s idea.
Since 2003, the leading scorer in the V.League each year has been foreign, with Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil and the Republic of Congo all represented. Nigeria-born Hoàng Vũ Samson became a naturalized Vietnamese in 2013, the year he won his first scoring title. Samson still has very intimate ties to his homeland, however. In a 2016 article, Thanh Niên [Youth] relates:
Vietnam Under Communis…
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