The Local Game: Vũ Tiến Thành, the Talkative One

June 03, 2024 - 07:06
The Hoàng Anh Gia Lai Football Club is attracting a lot of media attention, but not for performances on the pitch.
Vũ Tiến Thành, LPBank Hoàng Anh Gia Lai FC's coach. Despite his talent, Thành's behaviour and languages did not live up to his reputation. 10,000 runners. — Photo VPF

Anh Đức

The Hoàng Anh Gia Lai Football Club is attracting a lot of attention from the media right now.

But not because of the team's performance on the field... but in an unexpected corner off the pitch, the post-match press conference.

Not from a player either, but the team's coach and ever controversial Vũ Tiến Thành.

Thành was one of Việt Nam's pioneers in coaching and was the first coach to have a FIFA A licence in the country, even being sent over to Brazil for a top flight training camp in 1993.

However despite his talent, Thành's behaviour and language did not live up to his reputation. His first big scandal happened in 2004 when he was convicted of bribing a referee and given an 18-month suspended sentence.

After taking a two-decade hiatus from football, Thành returned as Sài Gòn FC's coach and led them to third place in the 2020 V-League.

In Sài Gòn, he was back to being controversial, when he criticised the league's decision to resume the competition during the pandemic, despite Sài Gòn having agreed to the league's resumption plans.

Thành then had a stint at neighbouring club Hồ Chí Minh City FC, but his team were denied top flight football, not becoming title contenders, instead fighting relegation during his tenure, in 2022 and 2023, and only narrowly escaping.

His style of dealing with the press did not divert the public's negative opinion on his team, but rather, earned Thành a notoriety of all talk and no action.

In 2023 after Kiatisuk Senamuang left the post at Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, Thành stepped in to replace the renowned Thai coach. It was perhaps a match made in heaven, with a controversial team owner in Đoàn Nguyên Đức matching the equally controversial manager in Thành; both having the tendency to criticise Vietnamese football.

Thành led Hoàng Anh Gia Lai a nine-game unbeaten streak, but when that streak fizzled out, his mouth started to open. After a first defeat to Hà Nội FC, Thành criticised the opposition for time wasting, despite his players' rough tackles causing many Hà Nội players to fall down in pain.

His latest rant came on May 30 in the post-match press conference after his team drew 1-1 against Thanh Hoá FC.

Thành criticised everyone from the referee to a VPF official and even denounced Việt Nam national team coach Kim Sang-sik for not choosing one of his players for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Even more astonishing than his rant was the timing. Thành had just been fined VNĐ20 million (US$790) for a speech defaming officials of VPF and VFF, a week earlier, so seemingly had not learnt his lesson.

And while Thành was yapping in the press room, HAGL continues to struggle in the relegation zone, with supporters dwindling and a slow deterioration of its football values: a team that once played beautiful football.

The time could come soon when Thành has to face a realisation: HAGL is playing badly not because of the referee, or some invisible hand behind the scenes, it is because of Thành. —  VNS