The new ambassador of all things Arsenal surprised local observers by admitting this was his second visit to the city. He admits, though, that he is doing it for the kids and hopes that his presence can help Vietnam produce its own superstar.
“The last time I was here I came on a pre-season tour with Swedish team Halmstads BK, my first club, and it was mayhem,” he recalls. “I was scared to cross the road as there were so many bicycles. It is great to be back, and especially representing my first love Arsenal.”
He adds: “I hope we can help inspire young Vietnamese kids to aim for greatness. But they need to put in the hard work. Some kids think they are players but don’t put in the hard work and get nowhere. There are a lot of factors to make it as a footballer, but putting in the work is the most important.”
The Road to Glory
The Swedish international spent a decade with the English Premiership club and achieved cult status in the all-conquering Arsenal team of 2002 and 2004 who were called the Invincibles after they went on an astonishing 49-game unbeaten run to win the 2001-02 Premier League title. They also won three FA cups, with Ljungberg scoring in the 2002 final win over Chelsea.
He was also part of the side that reached, but lost, the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona in Paris.
Having retired from football last year following spells with West Ham, Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire and Celtic, the Swede is on an Asian marketing trip that takes in Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan to promote Arsenal’s summer tour next month. While the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona will be playing in Thailand next month, Arsenal will be the first Premier League team to play in Vietnam.
However, says Ljungberg, “I’m not sure if I will be here next month in Hanoi. I have just started this new job. The club has a special place in my heart as everyone knows, and I’m looking forward to helping it grow.”
Arsenal will be playing Vietnam at My Dinh Stadium on Wednesday Jul. 17. The match kicks off at 7pm. For more information go to www.arsenal.com/asiatour2013