Amidst the galaxy of stars that don the colours of the German Men’s Hockey Team, Dan Nguyen often slips under the radar.
The 27-year-old doesn’t do anything flashy. But he is the silent workhorse who is relentless in the midfield, making interceptions, winning balls and providing the strikers.
On Thursday, Nguyen will make his 50th international appearance when Germany take on Belgium in what promises to be an epic World Cup quarterfinal.
In an interview with The Dragflick, Nguyen talks about his Vietnamese heritage, his introduction to the sport as a child, what he loves about Germany and the World Cup.
The Dragflick: How do you prepare for the match against Belgium? Is it possible to be fully sharp after such a big gap between two matches?
DN: In a World Cup, you don’t get the sharpness. You always have it in your heart but in the end, the team that fights for it, will win it. We have to fight and play our hearts out.
DF: How have you spent the last few days?
DN: The day after the game, we tried to regenerate as much as we could. On the second day, we focused a bit on the next opponent. On the third day, we did our analysis in depth and also played some – darts, basketball and cards to clear our minds.
DF: Who is the best card player?
DN: Well, there are a few…but surely it’s not me!
DF: Can you talk about your background and initiation to hockey?
DN: My grandfather was a doctor, father was into IT and my mom is a music teacher. My parents came to Germany from Vietnam in the 1980’s.
We are the first generation – my brother and me were born in Germany. There was a family in our neighbourhood in Germany that played hockey… they took the two of us to a hockey club and that’s how it began. I was six when I started playing.
DF: What made your parents move from Vietnam to Germany?
DN: There are a lot of reasons but the main reason was the communism in Vietnam. When the communism started, my family decided to move to Germany.
Although communism began in the 70’s, it took some time for my family to leave the country. They got a chance only in the 1980’s to finally leave the country.
DF: Can you elaborate why they left?
DN: There were family reasons. It’s something that I don’t want to talk about.
DF: Have you visited Vietnam ever?
DN: I haven’t yet but I do want to. But next year, in the beginning of the year, I have 3 weeks off and I plan to go.
DF: Is it common for Germans of Vietnamese origin to play hockey? Because the sport isn’t popular in Vietnam…
DN: No it’s not, actually. I had never heard about hockey before and even my parents too did not know about the sport. When our neighbours in Germany told us about the sport, it was the first time any of us got in touch with it.
DF: There’s a big talk about immigrants in Germany. Many Germans feel foreign in their own country and are afraid that immigration is changing their homeland rapidly. What do you think of it?
DN: In my opinion, everyone should have the possibility to come to a country that helps them. Germany provides ample support in terms of food and education. I am a big fan of them.
But the immigration policy isn’t well structured so now the people ask the authorities in charge tough questions. The initiation phase for immigrants should be more structured so that the people would be more relaxed about it.
DF: Are there any Vietnamese origin athletes in other sports in Germany?
DN: There’s one guy, he’s in gymnastics (Marcel Nguyen). But I don’t know anyone else.
DF: Is there pressure on you to represent your community? Do you feel that way?
DN: No, not at all. For myself, I want to perform at my best and there’s no pressure from my environment.
DF: After the football World Cup, Mesut Ozil said a few things about the environment. Did any of it resonate with you at all?
DN: No, not really.
DF: German football team is multi-ethnic. We can’t say the same about the hockey team. Is there a reason?
DN: It’s because football is very huge so everyone is playing the sport. Also, hockey is an expensive sport and that’s why more people play football. Field hockey is played by only the guys who are financially well settled.