COLUMBUS, Ohio — All month long, 10TV is honoring Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
We are bringing you a story of the Hmong people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group with a specific language and culture.
Gymnast Suni Lee catapulted the Hmong culture into the spotlight last year when she became the first Hmong American Olympian who went on to win Gold.
Now there is another "first" for the Hmong people in Columbus.
Michael Vang is a midfielder with the Columbus Crew 2 and is among the first Hmong professional players in the U.S.
“It brings just so many people from different places together and I’m just grateful to be here,” said Vang about his recent start on the professional soccer team.
Vang grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He was surrounded by a family who loved soccer, one likely influenced by his father. His dad coached club level in France before emigrating to the U.S. After finding the love for the sport in his kids, he started soccer clubs and leagues in the small Minnesota suburb.
“They told me that it’s a big step and to always give 100% and not 50 because everyone is watching you,” said Vang about his parents. “All eyes are on you and you want to set a good example and show them the reason why you’re there.”
In 2020, Vang arrived into the world of professional soccer players. He started his career as a Forward at Madison FC from 2020 to 2021.
His brother Brian, also step up to the professional world in 2020. The two became some of the first Hmong players on the soccer field in the U.S.
Last month, Ohio state senator Tina Maharath tweeted this photo - saying "it was great taking my son to the first Crew 2 game where he saw his first Hmong player ever.”
In 2018 she too broke barriers, becoming the first Asian American woman elected to the Ohio Senate. And just like her, Michael says representation does matter.
“It means a lot because there are a lot of kids that I know that are looking up to me as an example as someone they want to be. And it's just inspiring them and motivating them to do whatever they want to do to accomplish their goals,” said Vang.
It's an honor Michael says he doesn't take for granted and he's thrilled to see how soccer clubs around the world are becoming more diverse.
“It's been great, we just have so many different people from different countries and it's just beautiful what the game brings.“
You can watch Vang back in action because the next home game for the Crew 2 is Saturday, May 21 where they will play a doubleheader at Lower.com Field.
The Crew 2's game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and you can stay to watch Crew 2’s match at 7:00 pm.