|The Việt Nam U20 players train ahead of their upcoming tournament. — Photo courtesy of qdnd.vn|
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For the last couple of years, it’s been normal for the V.League 1 season to be halted for large periods of time so Việt Nam’s various national teams can prepare for tournaments, and this year is no different.
With four rounds of fixtures completed, Việt Nam’s top club competition is now on hold until April 6, meaning there will be no action for almost a month and a half.
Which prestigious tournament has caused the halt? Are the senior national team about to embark on an incredibly important campaign?
Nope, the under-20s are gearing up to play in the U20 AFC Championship in Uzbekistan from March 1 to 18.
While there’s no doubt the tournament is of great importance to those participating, to halt the domestic season so soon after it kicked off is ridiculous.
The last time this tournament was played was in 2018, a delay caused by COVID-19. Back then it was a U19 competition and a whopping 58 people attended one of the quarter-finals, though more than 3,000 people did bother showing up for the final.
Even if the tournament were of great significance, it’s not like V.League 1 sides can’t do without their U20 players for a few weeks, as after all, only a handful of players in the squad have made more than a couple of first-team appearances.
Pausing the league just as it’s kicked off hurts a number of stakeholders, not least those of us charged with writing about football, but possibly none more than the fans.
How fair is it that dedicated supporters of the likes of HCM City FC have to wait more than a month to see their team again for such an arbitrary reason? Why would these fans want to keep coming back through the turnstiles when it’s clear the powers that be place little value on the league and their support?
For players and coaches as well, it’s a strange situation to be in as they enter an extended mid-season training camp period.
“There is no other league in the world that is playing that takes such a long break, which is very inconvenient,” Nam Định coach Vũ Hồng Việt summed it up well when speaking to Zing News.
I’m a broken record at this point but it bears repeating – for the national team to succeed, the domestic league needs to be thriving and constantly fixing the schedule around U20 tournaments is no recipe for success. — VNS