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Expats’ life as professional sports instructors in Vietnam

Expats from different walks of life have found a stable living in Vietnam while developing careers as professional sports trainers.

Retired athletes, English teachers or even tourists have managed to resettle in the Southeast Asian country as professional coaches thanks to their passion and determination.

The adoption of foreign-rooted types of sport, including martial arts, bodybuilding, and yoga, have provided various career opportunities for many expats.

From amateur

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Aside from those with experience, who may have been in the field of sport for decades, several foreign sports trainers in Vietnam have begun their profession as amateur players.

Matthew Heller, for example, a 38-year-old American now living in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, has showed that he was not afraid to follow his dream and making changes to pursue his passion.

Heller graduated in finance from Hofstra University in New York before continuing his study in the field of traditional eastern medicine in San Diego.

He started his internship in South Korea in 2006 but later abandoned his education to begin an adventure across Asia.

With an interest in eastern cultures, the American traveled to mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia among others, where he taught English to make a living.

Heller met his Vietnamese girlfriend during a trip to Cambodia. The two fell in love with each other and gave birth to their son in late 2015, while Heller was living in Malaysia.

He then settled down in Ho Chi Minh City to be with his son, though he still missed his life in Malaysia or at least in the central city of Da Nang, where he was surrounded by beautiful beaches and a pleasant environment.

However, the man said he had not encountered much difficulty building his life in the southern Vietnamese city.

Matthew Heller helps an athlete during weight training in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Following several career changes, and given the rise in bodybuilding among Vietnamese people, Heller decided to try his luck as a personal trainer. Bodybuilding is a sport he been interested in from a young age.

Despite his lack of professional knowledge, Heller quickly became an admired coach thanks to his dedication, hard work, and creativity.

To seasoned

Other professional trainers come to Vietnam via a more straightforward journey, often being referred by sport federations or invited by local gyms.

One of them is Geogi Stoyanov, a 36-year-old Bulgarian MMA (mixed martial art) instructor with 15 years of experience, who has worked for the Saigon Sports Club in District 7 for the last two years.

Also working at the center, Evgenii Kruskikh, a former well-known boxer from Russia, decided on working as a boxing coach in Vietnam during his trip to the country in 2015.

With a recommendation letter from the Boxing Federation of Russia, the expat resettled in Vietnam to work as a professional instructor.

Yoga is another sport attracting expats to resettle here, as it has increasingly become a favorite form of exercise amongst many Vietnamese. In this practice, Indian instructors are given favorable conditions to impart the knowledge of their traditional sport.

Rajesh Choudhary has been considered a yoga master in Ho Chi Minh City following years of developing the sport in the southern hub.

Choudhary came to Vietnam in 2008 and has grown fond of the country ever since, saying that it always had potential as a hub for the development of yoga.

The Indian coach also referred to his intention to marry a Vietnamese woman this November and plans to live in Vietnam for the rest of his life.

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