|Play ball: The national premier league football championship will return to action tomorrow in nation-wide fields after a two-month delay. — VNA/VNS Photo Quoc Khanh
HCM CITY (VNS)— Football is finally back on the domestic calendar, with the new season kicking off this weekend at stadiums across the country.
Particular attention will be focused on the new-look V-League, which for the first time in many years contains just12 teams.
Last year was particularly turbulent on and off the field for Viet Nam's top division, with the continuing financial crisis forcing some clubs to dissolve and controversies over the quality of refereeing and the misbehaviour of players casting a cloud over the sport.
The new season was delayed by two months so the game's governing bodies could iron out the problems, and it is hoped that the nation's most popular sport can redeem itself this time around.
The Viet Nam Football Professional Joint Stock Company (VPF) has invited experienced Japanese football guru Kazuyoshi Tanabe to transform the competition into a well-run, professional and crowd-pleasing proposition.
"I will work with the VPF and the Viet Nam Football Federation to create an exciting tournament. If everybody in the game works together the V-League will be better," promised Tanabe.
The VPF, which was established last year to manage the V-League and the First Division, is also expected to learn from the challenges posed last term to ensure that by the time the first whistle blows today, football fans nation-wide can enjoy the beautiful game once more.
First round fixtures
The first round of the V-League 2013 begins today with three early matches. At the Hang Day Stadium, Ha Noi T&T, one of the title favourites, take on Hoang Anh Gia Lai.
Newly-promoted Dong Tam Long An host Thanh Hoa while at the Thong Nhat Stadium last year's runners-up Sai Gon Xuan Thanh (SGXT) meet big-spending Becamex Binh Duong, whose title credentials have been boosted by the marquee signing of Brazilian striker Huynh Kesley Alves – one of the stars of the V-League for years.
Tomorrow, defending champions SHB Da Nang have the chance to get off to the perfect start against underdogs Kien Long Bank Kien Giang.
The holders are looking in good shape after thrashing SGXT 4-0 in the Super Cup before beating Myanmar's Ayeyawady United 2-1 in the Asian Confederation Cup, both in the space of a week.
Kien Giang on the other hand are among the favourites for relegation having avoided the drop by the skin of their teeth last year. They have failed to make any signings of note during the off-season and are being strongly tipped for another difficult campaign.
In the remaining fixtures, the 2011 champions Song Lam Nghe An will play at home against Hai Phong while newcomers Dong Nai host Ninh Binh. — VNS