Untold Stories, Southeast Asian Clubs: Hanoi FC

Earlier this year, FourFourTwo travelled to the bustling Vietnamese capital of Hanoi to meet Nguyễn Giang Đông, chairman of newly promoted Hanoi FC, a small club, we were told, with grand ambitions.

Ambling through the congested alleys and lanes of Hanoi’s historic Old Quarter and past Hoàn Kiếm Lake, we made our way in between the early morning rush of motorbikes laden with goods, food and families to the anointed meeting place, a downtown café a stone’s throw from the club’s modest office.

HANOI FC FACTBOX

FOUNDED: 2011 (as Hanoi FC)

LEADING FIGURES: Nguyễn Giang Đông (Club chairman and overlord who took the controversial decision to relocate the club mid-season)

Jean-Eudes MAURICE (Former PSG and current Haiti national team striker who comes to Vietnam with one of the best pedigrees of any import)

COLOURS: Pink and White

MOST SUCCESFUL COACH: Nguyễn Đức Thắng (Former Vietnamese international, he was the coach who had Hanoi FC promoted to the V.League this season)

HOME GROUND: Thống Nhất Stadium, Ho Chi Minh City 

CAPACITY: 25,000

For the next hour, in between cup after cup of the strong black coffee that keeps the city moving, Nguyễn told FourFourTwo of his plans for the upcoming season, which was less than a week away from kicking off.

It was to be Hanoi FC’s maiden campaign in the top flight of Vietnamese football, three years since Nguyễn had assumed control of the club after the previous chairman, Nguyễn Duc Kien, had been jailed for 30 years for fraud and tax evasion.

Hanoi FC was, as Nguyễn explained, the authentic team of the capital; a club that, with their distinctive pink and white playing strip, was slated to be the new powerhouse in the nation’s second largest city.

“Hanoi FC is the real club of Hanoi,” he said. “We are aiming to only employ coaches and players from Hanoi and we want to make this one of the biggest teams in the country, but one that reflects the traditions and values of all Hanoian people; this is the people’s club of Hanoi.”

So you can imagine the surprise at what came next.