Le Tien Anh, 13, from Thanh Hoa province has spent two years training at the Viettel Football Centre in Hanoi, hoping to become a professional footballer within the next seven years.

Tien Anh, who earned a scholarship for a seven-year first course with 60 other students, will graduate from the football centre in 2016.

The best of them will either join the Viettel squad or other V-League teams after graduation.

"I'm eager to become a professional footballer, because I'm almost crazy about football. My childhood grew up with game being an inseparable part of my summer holidays," the 13-year-old said.

The Thanh Hoa-born teenager has rapidly improved his skills and physical fitness at the centre.

"It's a great change for me as I used to have fun playing in an exciting, undisciplined way in my mountainous village. However, I gradually learned how to play with a finer appreciation of the tactics."

"Tien Anh is actually a talented boy. He was born to play football. His fitness and skill convinced us to enrol him on the centre's first course," coach of U-13 team, Nguyen Minh Tien said.

"The teenager picks up instructions quickly, and he always outdoes himself in practice. If he keeps up his impressive form, he'll be a star in our main squad competing in the professional league within the next seven years," the coach said.

The teenager said he idolises Spanish playmaker Xavier Hernandez of Barcelona and Vietnamese captain Nguyen Minh Phuong.

"I was assigned to play as our midfield general since I was recruited in 2009. Central midfield is a tough position and I have to sweat out in training every day. I work harder both in training and studying at school because I don't want to disappoint my parents and coaches," Anh explained.

All 60 kids go to school in the morning and practise football two hours in the afternoon. They are provided just 100,000 VND (5 USD) a day for their living costs and are under strict discipline.

Anh's fellow-country boy, Nguyen Hong Hai, 12, had to overcome homesickness when he joined the centre two years ago.

"It's the most difficult time for me. As the only child in my family, I asked my parents to allow me to go to the centre. I could not help crying at night in the first month, but I then found joy through playing football with friends here," Hai recalled.

Hai plays as a winger – the position where he shows off his speed and physical strength.

"The position forces me to track back and forwards down the touchline. It means I often have to put extra work into my fitness after practice," he said.

"I rarely score goals, but my accurate passes assist my team-mates by providing them with chances. I love to play one-two short passes during training, just like Real Madrid do. Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo inspires me to train hard with the ball," the 12-year-old boy said.

Strict discipline at Hanoi-based centre helps the kids grow up and gain more confidence in life and on the field.

"I'm surprised how my son has changed gradually. My kid was perhaps overprotected, but he now even does homework himself whenever he is home for the holidays," Hai's father Nguyen Xuan Phu said.

"I believe that my son will become a professional footballer," his father hopes.

Hai is also a good student at school. He has been one of the best students at My Dinh Junior School over the last two years.

Last year, the teenager and his team-mates helped Viettel finish second in the National Juniors Football Championship.

Viettel, when it took over The Cong, or the Army football team in 2009, implemented a complete overhaul of the club.

Viettel scouts began a three-month series of trials in 20 provinces from central Thua Thien-Hue to the north, to recruit the top 20 out of a total of around 10,000 boys aged between 10 and 12 during the preliminary stages.

The final 20 boys receive scholarships for the second course at the centre.

"It's the biggest ever enrolment that the centre have done so far. The best 20 boys must pass a medical and skills test based on those carried out in European clubs," said the Viettel centre's director, Nguyen Thanh Hai.

"The centre has invited European coaches to help provide the latest in football knowledge. We hope that Viettel Centre will soon become a European model football centre in north Vietnam in the next five years," Hai added.

"The youngsters will be good enough to play in the Vietnamese, Southeast Asian or Asian leagues," the director said./.