by Thanh Ha
HA NOI — The Viet Nam Football Federation is again seeking a coach for the national and under-23 teams.
|Available: Coach Phan Thanh Hung is a favourite candidate for the national football team's driving seat. — VNS Photo Quang Thang
For more than 16 years, the federation has seen foreign coaches as the key to pushing Viet Nam to the top of the regional tournament and to success in international competitions.
Hope, expectation and cash were invested but none of it brought the country to glory although it made remarkable progress in national football.
After sacking Falko Goetz last month, the eighth foreign coach since 1995, the federation now puts its belief in a Vietnamese who for many years has been working as head coaching assistant.
Speaking at a federation conference, chairman Nguyen Trong Hy said when Goetz went, it was 100 per cent certain the substitution would be a local coach.
"Malaysia and Indonesia have been successful with local coaches. If we look at the V-League [now Super-League] we can see that the local coaches are doing it better than the foreigners," said Hy.
Viet Nam returned to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games competition in 1991 after years of absence. Vietnamese Vu Van Tu, Nguyen Sy Hien and Tran Duy Long were the first coaches, but teams were eliminated from the SEA Games group stage in 1991 and 1993.
These failures made the federation change its mind. It signed a contract with German Karl Weigang who helped Viet Nam earn a silver medal at the next Games in 1995.
Up to now, eight coaches have come and gone. Viet Nam's best result was winning the Southeast Asian Football Federation (AFF) Cup in 2008 under Portuguese Henrique Calisto. The SEA Games title still seems out of reach.
During this period of foreign coaches, only two Vietnamese were appointed. Tran Van Khanh was assigned acting head coach for the 2004 Tiger Cup and Mai Duc Chung took charge at the 23rd SEA Games in 2005.
The federation thought about using a Vietnamese when Calisto withdrew last March. Many candidates who had persuasive CVs were named, but the finalist was Goetz, a foreigner again.
Goetz was fired after the U23 team's poor performance at Indonesian SEA Games last November when Viet Nam finished fourth despite targeting a gold medal.
The federation now wants to work with a Vietnamese and while some say "no", others are ready.
Coach Le Thuy Hai said he would take up the cause if invited. Hai is one of the best among the candidates.
"In the world, a foreign coach can only be successful if he understands the local language. In football, things happen rapidly. If the coach has to adjust players through an interpreter, it will be too late," Hai said.
"We hoped foreigners would bring new things to Viet Nam, but their syllabuses and training exercises are the same.
"The difference is the way they transfer the competitive spirit to the players. But they cannot convert players into star team with one month of training. So I believe that a local coach has the advantage," Hai said.
"The federation would save a lot of money for salaries, apartments and travel expenses if it invites a local coach and I am ready."
Coach Chung, who used to work with the U23 team, said he also was available.
"It is time for a local coach. They have a good foundation and proved their capacity through domestic competitions. Hai, Phan Thanh Hung and Nguyen Huu Thang are qualified to lead the team," said Chung, who said goodbye to Super-League's Navibank Sai Gon ahead of the new season.
"Local coach quality may not as good as the foreigners who trained and worked in Europe. However we understand players and regional football.
"If I get the invitation, I will be ready because I am free and want to contribute more to national football. "
Former striker Le Huynh Duc, who grabbed the Super League title with SHB Da Nang in his debut as trainer in 2009, said it was his dream to be national team coach.
"I believe a local coach can overcome heavy pressure to win when leading the national team because he suffers the same pressure at the local level.
"Being national head coach is a dream to any trainer, including me. But I have not received any invitation."
Coach Hung is another possible candidate for the position. Hung is working well at Ha Noi T&T club after assisting Calisto to win the AFF Cup four years ago.
"I still have two years in contract with T&T. My work is going on right track and I find it interesting and busy here so I do not want to be national head coach," said Hung who was Goetz's first assistant.
Coach Thang of the defending champion Song Lam Nghe An also refused.
"VFF's decision is good as there is chance for local coaches to show off ability but I myself don't feel confident," he said.
A basic difference between the idea of a local coach is that he would be paid only about US$7,000 a month while Calisto and Goetz were paid more than $20,000 - plus an apartment and travel expenses.
This year Viet Nam have only one competition, that is to compete at the AFF championship in Malaysia and Thailand. — VNS