Here's hoping in 2022 we can return to packed stadiums like this last seen three years ago in Nam Đinh Province. Photo vov.vn
It feels a little harsh to hold anyone to a New Year’s resolution in 2022 as we enter the third year of life in a pandemic, but professional football is an unforgiving arena.
With that in mind, here are a few resolutions I would love to see the great and the good in Vietnamese football stick to this year, just as I will certainly still be going to the gym three times a week in February.
VPF – finish a domestic season
Ah, club football! Remember that?
It’s been more than six months since a ball was kicked in anger in the V.League 1 after the 2021 season was scrapped due to COVID-19.
Really, we haven’t had a full season since the heady days of 2019 as even the 2020 season was truncated because of the pandemic.
But two years into life on this planet under a pandemic and enough is enough.
The bigwigs at the Việt Nam Professional Football (VPF) Company can’t control the spread of a virus nor can they decide Việt Nam’s laws, but at this stage they should be able to play a full football season in a country that is committed to living with COVID.
Whether that means reduced crowds, centralised venues, using bubbles or in a worst-case scenario playing behind closed doors, I don’t really care how they do it, let’s get a full season played!
Star players – move abroad
I’m less confident of this resolution being fulfilled than the first one, but I live in hope rather than expectation.
At the AFF Cup in December, midfielders Nguyễn Quang Hải and Nguyễn Hoàng Đức showed they are a cut above their teammates and indeed most players in Southeast Asia, so it’s long past time they tested themselves somewhere like Japan or South Korea.
Will foreign clubs have any interest? Will their Vietnamese clubs set realistic prices? Do they even want to leave home comforts behind?
I suspect the answers are yes, no and maybe, but if Vietnamese football is to move to the next level, players like Hải and Đức need to be allowed to take a chance and show there’s a place for Vietnamese talent in Asia’s top leagues.
Coach Park – take some risks
No one expected Việt Nam to be in pole position for a World Cup spot by now, but expectations were justifiably a lot higher for the AFF Cup.
Those expectations made December a rough month for South Korean coach Park Hang-seo after what, overall, was a successful 2020.
He has a chance for redemption though on February 1, when China come to Hà Nội for a World Cup qualifier on Lunar New Year’s Day.
I think it’s safe to say every Vietnamese fan would quickly forgive the disappointment in Singapore if Park were to mastermind Việt Nam’s first competitive win over China, and why not try and do it in style?
I’d love to see the national team use the time between now and the match to prepare an attack-minded strategy to blow China out of the water and end any faint World Cup hopes they’re hanging onto by then.
Fans – go to matches
Finally, to any and all lovers of the beautiful game reading out there, let’s resolve to cross the turnstiles in numbers this year.
For one thing, we should all be missing the matchday experience and for another, clubs are reeling from the pandemic’s financial impact. So, if we want the VPF to fulfill their resolution, it’s up to us to show the demand is still there for the in-stadium experience. VNS