The time has come for Vietnam to turn beautiful football into real success

For some time Vietnam has been considered a Southeast Asian football nation on the rise, but that potential now needs to be converted into real, tangible success.

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That’s the opinion of popular ex-Vietnamese professional Luu Ngoc Hung, who hopes the country can develop a clear strategy for sustained success under new men’s head coach, South Korean Park Hang-Seo.

The recent SEA Games in Malaysia provided a perfect snapshot of the issues facing the wildly popular sport in Vietnam.

There is so much potential in Vietnam football because the sport is in the blood of all Vietnamese people

- Luu Ngoc Hung

Playing some superb football, the men’s team swept aside Timor-Leste, Cambodia and the Philippines with consummate ease, scoring 12 goals and conceding just one to vault to the top of their group.

But from there it all went wrong, with a scoreless draw with Indonesia and then a 3-0 defeat to Thailand consigning them to the Group B scrapheap.

It followed on from a semi-final defeat to Indonesia at last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup, when some more attractive football wasn’t translated into top spot on the podium.

“There is so much potential in Vietnam football because the sport is in the blood of all Vietnamese people when they are born,” Ngoc Hung told FourFourTwo.

Vietnam played good football at the Suzuki Cup, but fell short of their goal

“You can see from the children that are five, six years old they can play together with their parents, it starts from there, so there is so much potential in this market.

“But we need to find a way to make it better and turn that potential into results.”

Four entries on FourFourTwo’s Top 15 ASEAN Managers for 2017 hailed from Vietnam, indicating the local coaching systems are on the right track.

That included Hoang Anh Tunh, the man who guided Vietnam’s under-20 side all the way to a groundbreaking appearance in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

But taking that next step and winning regional tournaments like the SEA Games and Suzuki Cup on a regular basis, and matching current powerhouse Thailand, has to be the goal and this is where consistency can play a part.

Over the past decade alone, coaches from Austria, Portugal, Germany and Japan have been spliced among six local managers of the national men’s team, so it’s no surprise Ngoc Hung feels the message and direction has become blurred.

Luu Ngoc Hung. Photo:

The hope now is that with Park in charge, a man who was part of Guus Hiddink’s South Korean staff at the 2002 World Cup and led the Asian Games under-23 side to a bronze medal before taking over a number of K-League teams, a clear direction has been identified.

“A lot of youth academies and soccer schools have been developed in Vietnam, but we don’t have consistent management and we don’t have the right strategy,” said Ngoc Hung, a respected defender over a decade-long career in the Vietnamese league.

A lot of youth academies and soccer schools have been developed in Vietnam, but we don’t have consistent management

“You can see with the management of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), we don’t have the right direction to find a way for the sport to develop in the proper way. The most important thing is the leadership of the VFF.

“For example, we could follow the example set by Germany, which has been developing for a long time and they have recorded so many good achievements. We need to choose a style and stick with it.

“We can’t be choosing to adopt a similar style to Japan one day, then Korea the next and then Germany.

“It’s very important at the end of the day that the example is set by the leaders and the management in Vietnamese football.”

Thailand proved too strong for Vietnam at the SEA Games

Representatives of Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund recently visited Ho Chi Minh as part of a regional tour with the German Cup trophy the club won in May this year.

While hugely successful, Dortmund don’t have quite the global pull enjoyed by some other European powerhouses, yet they still drew huge crowds in football-crazy Vietnam.

“It was very lucky for Vietnam, especially because Dortmund is one of the top clubs in the world,” Ngoc Hung said.

“We were very privileged to have the team come here and were really happy to see them here.”

Ngoc Hung himself took part in a training session with some Dortmund coaches and a host of youngsters from some local football academies.

Clearly a hit with the kids, Ngoc Hung is hopeful of climbing the coaching ranks himself.

“Football is in my blood. I was born to play football,” he said. “What I’m doing now is just working with youth academies.

“As a former player and now moving into coaching, I hope I have an opportunity to coach a club at professional level.

“That is the dream of all coaches.”

Photos: unless stated