Enhancing investment and opportunities for youth football

Thursday, 2022-01-13 11:04:41
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Vietnam midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai (#19) in action during a match. (Photo: VFF)
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Vietnamese football wrapped up the year 2021 with an outstanding achievement of being the only Southeast Asian team to advance to the final round of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Asian Qualifiers.

Despite their little hopes of progressing following six consecutive losses, what’s positive for the Golden Star Warriors is that they have been present in the top playing ground of international football, and have competed with enthusiasm and without fears on their debut.

The biggest sadness before the end of the year was that coach Park Hang-seo’s troops became the former regional champions, as they crashed out in the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020. This defeat brought disillusion and triggered debates about the direction of building and developing the successor forces for the national teams, as well as many worries about the great challenges in 2022.

This year, there are several goals for Vietnamese football to aim for and conquer. In the first three months, the Vietnamese national team will participate in the remaining four matches of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers against Australia, China, Oman and Japan. By the end of the year, Park’s side will enter a new race to vie for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2022 glory.

Together with the national team, the Vietnam U22/U23 team will look to defend their gold medal at the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, as well as participating in the AFC U23 Championship, the 19th Asian Games, and the AFF U23 Championship.

The recent achievements and failures and the upcoming goals are putting tremendous pressure on the teams, both senior and junior, but also opening up new opportunities for Vietnamese football to develop. The year 2022 will be one with many changes in the organisational structure of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) and the teams’ training work. It is very likely that a new coach will be appointed to replace coach Park Hang-seo in leading the Vietnam U23 team after the 31st SEA Games, leaving the Korean coach to solely focus on the national team. Many are worried the changes could create negative effects, but there are also hopes about new opportunities for football development.

It can be said that the Vietnamese national squad currently has a generation of talented players regarding all positions. They were previously the U22/U23 players and then became the key pillars of the national team that has achieved resounding victories over the past four years, contributing to affirming the position of Vietnamese football in the regional, continental and world arenas. However, until present, that generation of players is slowing down, while the junior generation has not yet shown the ability to worthily succeed their seniors in recent tournaments. It will surely not be easy for Vietnam’s U22/U23 team to defend their gold medal at the upcoming 31st SEA Games, as they will be challenged by the strong U22/U23 sides such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, with many players of this age group currently playing for the national teams and having affirmed their capabilities at regional and continental competitions.

In order to promote sustainable football development, strategic changes are needed in the long run, and focus should be put on developing youth football and professionalism of the national championship, thus creating the inheritance and continuity between generations. Achievements can go up and down concerning countries with advanced football, but their level and qualifications are undeniable, because they have a professional development background, with continuous supplements from an abundant source of choices. The development of youth football will provide enough personnel for teams on the basis of competition and substitution. At the same time, it will offer young players the opportunities to compete, hone their skills and gain experience to constitute strong teams in the future, with even power in all positions.

The progress of the Vietnamese national team in recent times does not mean the common advancement of national football. In addition to enhancing the quality and professionalism of the national championship, it is important to further improve the quality of youth football training. The VFF and clubs should continue to invest and work out proper development direction for youth football, as well as open the door to the national team, making it more accessible for young players.

In recent years, the VFF and leading professional clubs such as Hoang Anh Gia Lai, Hanoi FC, among others, have completely changed their youth training strategies, applying a rigorous selection process to select just a few talented players from thousands of gifted individuals, while hiring qualified foreign experts to train players, regarding techniques, fitness and nutrition. Clubs should also boldly put their faith in younger players and give them the opportunity to play in official matches. This will help develop generations of young, promising and talented players for the national teams.