Coach Park Hang-seo and one of his assistants speak with Đoàn Văn Hậu and Nguyễn Công Phượng during a training session with the national team. Photo vietnamnet.vn
By Hoàng Hồ and Thanh Hà
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam national team head coach Park Hang-seo was adamant that his star defender Đoàn Văn Hậu's brief loan spell at SC Heerenveen in the Netherlands was positive for both player and country, calling it a "meaningful experience".
Hậu signed a one-year loan deal with SC Heerenveen in September 2019 but had to return to Hà Nội FC this August after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to extend his contract.
Despite high hopes from Vietnamese football, Hậu only played four minutes for the first team in the Dutch Cup and mainly turned out in Heerenveen’s youth team.
After a lot of hype surrounding the young full-back's move to Europe, many in local media described returning home without having played significant minutes a failure.
“I don't think it was a failure," Park told Việt Nam News.
“We shouldn’t think hard about where a player plays or not. When a player participates in a game, he needs to use his ability combined with many other factors," he said.
“A lot of people think it was a failure. Why do you think they failed? Because during the time abroad, they can learn a lot and accumulate a lot of information, and when they return they can move on (abroad) again," he said.
"It’s meaningful if players can experience a better or higher-level football. Football is not just about technique. We need to consider the club system or the system of that country," he added.
Nguyễn Công Phượng struggled for game time during his spell on loan in Belgium at Sint-Truidense V.V. Photo thethao247.vn
Hậu isn't the only Vietnamese player to have had a brief spell abroad in recent years.
In 2019, star striker Nguyễn Công Phượng became the first Vietnamese player to compete in Belgium after signing for Sint-Truidense V.V on loan from Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL).
In a half-season abroad, he played only 20 minutes in a defeat to Club Brugge. For many months later, the striker was not even in the match-day squad.
Phượng’s teammate at HAGL Lương Xuân Trường also had experience playing abroad in South Korea from 2016 to 2017 and the Thai League last year.
“We should not take the matter unilaterally and narrowly," said Park.
“I really hope the press will not say that Hậu or Phượng, or anyone, who goes abroad then comes back, is a failure,” he said.
“When they go abroad, especially the advanced countries, we will find that they are very well organised. The players who go abroad get a lot of help from the experts, so they not only have their abilities improved, but also learn a lot.”
Đoàn Văn Hậu on the ball for SC Heerenveen. Photo thethao247.vn
Despite praising the benefits of playing in other countries, Park also said that when the football environment in Việt Nam improves, playing abroad may not be necessary for top players' development.
“In order to develop players, we not only develop their technique but also the surrounding system as well," he said.
"In the team, we now have many experts from different fields.
"For example, for eating and drinking, I hardly interfere with the menu. We do not have a nutrition specialist, but this is handled by medical staff and fitness coaches. Injury treatment is handled by medical staff.
"Also, modern football needs expert analysts, a position that we don't yet have. When going to tournaments, players often have pressure from the game, so the team also needs a psychology specialist. Equipment is also very important. Each member of the coaching staff has a role.
"Surely we need the help of experts," he explained.
While the national team may now be lacking some of those key elements Park mentioned, he said he had faith that wouldn't always be the case.
“Currently, Việt Nam's economy is going up, and at some point, our system will be perfect," Park said.
“To perfect the system, we need money and people. It's a bit difficult now, but in the future they will be there. So, I actively recommend the players to go abroad to experience those things.”
That might be a lot of work, but with more and more players compete in top football divisions, the future of Vietnamese football is looking bright. VNS