Hoàng Anh Gia Lai FC were flying high in the 2021 V.League 1 before the tournament was cancelled last week. The former champions are in top position but have not been awarded winning title following a decision by the Việt Nam Football Federation. Photo courtesy of HAGL FC
HÀ NỘI Hoàng Anh Gia Lai’s dream season came to an unexpected end after all national football tournaments were officially cancelled by the Việt Nam Football Federation (VFF).
According to VFF Vice President Trần Quốc Tuấn, the V.League 1 from round 12, V.League 2 from rounds eight and the National Cup from the last-eight stage will all come to an end.
All events were postponed in July because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the decision, VFF will not recognise teams and individual titles that were not completed in their first periods.
VFF also said no team will promoted or relegated this season. The national football agency will propose results to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) who will decide Việt Nam’s representatives at the continental competitions in 2022.
Chance gone away
It means that Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) who are leading the V.League 1 after 12 matches will not take the title despite many coaches and experts saying the former champions should be awarded the trophy based on their amazing performances.
The two-time winners lost the opening match before going on a run of 11 undefeated games including nine wins in a row. They have 29 points, three more than reigning champion Viettel FC, but more than that, their football philosophy, style of play and positive spirit helped them to win millions of fans nationwide.
Đoàn Nguyên Đức, owner of HAGL, is one of clubs’ representatives who backed the idea of cancelling the tournament. He said he does not care about the silverware, the important thing is beautiful football, better performances every year and his players who he trained since youngsters that have grown into great footballers.
“For a long time, I have kept in my mind that HAGL’s win or loss is not important but how they played for our fans,” said Đức.
“My care is for the supporters. In football, if you can’t win their hearts, you are a loser. This season, you can see Pleiku was always full while supporters in every corner of Việt Nam kept eyes on us. I am happy for that.”
Hoàng Anh Gia Lai FC players train during social distancing in July. Their head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang will back in action after a vacation in Thailand when the season is resumed. Photo of HAGL FC
HAGL won titles in 2003 and 2004 and this is the closest they have come to winning it again. During 17 years since last win, they have to escaped from relegation four times.
Last season they finished seventh.
Things got better when Thai manager Kiatisuk Senamuang took charge this year, bringing in a new, fresh atmosphere at the Plei Ku Stadium.
Recently, Senamuang received an offer to take charge of the Thai national team. Đức also agreed to let him go if he wanted to.
However, on his Facebook page on September 24 Thailand’s most famous player posted in Vietnamese that he would stay in Việt Nam for long time, indirectly refusing all generous offers from other clubs.
The 48-year-old is currently in Thailand with his family after the V.League 1 was delayed in July. But he keeps working online with his Vietnamese assistants on strategy for the coming season. He will return to Việt Nam in November.
Đức also confirmed the Thai coach’s relationship with his team stays strong.
“Kiatisuk (Senamuang) will not be here for long time but very long time. He and I have known each other clearly for a long time, it is our fate. He is always ready to help when I need it. In ASEAN, no one is better than him, right?” said Đức who signed Senamuang as player 2002 to 2006 and manager in 2006 and 2010.
“Kiatisak has considered HAGL his second home. He shared the same philosophy as us and plays the type of football that I expect. We will work together to play great football which is entertaining for the people in Pleiku who pay to support us,” said Đức who promised to strengthen HAGL’s line-up for coming season as they could be picked to represent Việt Nam at the AFC events.
Sigh of relief
VFF’s decision, on the other hand, helps Sông Lam Nghệ An (SLNA) breath a sigh of relief.
They are at the bottom of the V.League 1 with only 10 points and have one foot in V.League 2.
Sông Lam Nghệ An avoided relegation after the 2021 V.League was canceled. Their coaches and players are planning for next season. Photo baonghean.vn
They now avoid the drop and remain the only club in Việt Nam that have never been relegated.
“In this situation of COVID-19, the cancellation is easy to understand and unavoidable,” said Văn Sỹ Hùng, deputy director of Sông Lam Nghệ An Football Joinstock Company.
“VFF’s decision of no promotion and relegation is fair because tournament has not been completed.”
SLNA, who found new sponsor, have begun their preparations for next season which is expected to begin in February.
“It is still early but we have made plans,” said Hùng.
“We will sign contracts with two foreigners and will push young players into the first team. SLNA have many talented youngsters, some of them are members of the national U22s.”
“In the coming season, we will have a team made up of the experience of senior players and youth and energy of juniors.” VNS