Hà Nội FC players train ahead of the 2022 V.League 1 season, which has been delayed. Photo thanhnien.vn
By Peter Cowan
It’s the age-old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Science has yet to definitively answer this particular riddle, but it seems to me the boffins who run football in Việt Nam are pretty confident you don’t even need an egg to end up with a chicken.
Bear with me, but in this metaphor the V.League 1 and other domestic football is the egg, while the national team success that we’ve enjoyed in the last few years is the chicken.
The disregard with which all things domestic football are treated in this country reached new heights last week, when the Việt Nam Professional Football Company (VPF) announced the start of the 2022 season would be delayed by a week.
The decision makes zero sense when you consider it was made only a week after the original start date of the season was announced, and when you look at the VPF’s stated reason.
According to zingnews.vn, the VPF said the opening kickoff was delayed to give the national team players more time to recover after their upcoming World Cup fixtures against Australia and China.
Frankly this doesn’t hold water, as these national team fixture dates were known months before the original league starting date announcement was made, so why wasn’t the later starting date the first one to be made public?
Whatever the reason, the result is yet another example of club football being looked at as secondary to national team success.
It gets worse though, as with the delay announcement came the release of some fixture dates for club football, including a whopping 15-week break between the fourth and fifth round of V.League 1 matches.
This break seems to be in place to allow the U22 national team to prepare for and play in the home SEA Games in May.
I understand the SEA Games are important and I am excited to have the chance to attend some events here in Hà Nội, but pausing a professional football season for four months the benefit of an U22 team is ridiculous.
What chance does the league have to attract fans and viewers, and therefore sponsors, with such a huge gap in the season? A year after the season was scrapped altogether, no less.
How can domestic football develop when it always has to make way for national team concerns?
Getting back to poultry-based metaphors, you can’t have a chicken without an egg, and it’s the same for Vietnamese football.
We wouldn’t have enjoyed the national team’s AFF Cup glory in 2018 or the run to the AFC U23 final the same year without the V.League.
That’s because for all its problems, the V.League 1 is still the place where all national team players have to start their development.
Ask any coach or pro and they’ll agree that playing senior football against professionals does far more for a young player’s development than facing off against exclusively their peers ever could.
When livelihoods are on the line, the men are separated from the boys and we see which boys are ready to make the step up.
While they have outgrown the V.League 1 by now, the likes of Nguyễn Quang Hải and Nguyễn Hoàng Đức wouldn’t be where they are now without Vietnamese club football, and they’d be even further along in their development if we had a stronger, more professional V.League 1.
Which is why it’s such a shame that the local game isn’t being given a chance to develop. VNS