A – Asian Cup 2019 Qualification
Vietnam enter the 3rd Qualifying round for the expanded 2019 Asian Cup taking place in UAE. The draw will be held 23rd January.
B – Breaks
Continuity will not be an option this year as the league have announced mid-season breaks to accommodate the U20 world cup (20/May – 11/June) and the SEA Games (20-30/August), not forgetting Tet holiday which we see a break of 1-2 weeks sometime late in January.
C – Contras
The first organised fan group at champions T&T also spawned a number of copycat groups around the league (HAGL & Danang). The groups, often made up of students, look to European and East Asian fans for their influence. Expect choreographed chants, mega phones, huge flags, fireworks, flares and multicoloured smoke bombs to adorn the stadiums this season.
D – Departures
A number of experienced Bình Dương players have departed the 4 time league champions, including Le Cong Vinh, Đặng Văn Robert, Lê Phước Tứ, & Trọng Hoàng. The wealthy team from the South, once dubbed the “Vietnamese Chelsea” are switching their focus to developing their youth academy. Overseas players on the move include Rod Dyanchenko (Quang Ninh to TP.HCM), Victor (Hanoi T&T – TP.HCM) Andrew Mwesigwa (Sai Gon FC – released), Ivan Firer, Nsi Amougou (both Bình Dương – released), and Loris Arnaud (T&T – released, but has now returned, #99 for Hanoi FC).
E – Errol Stevens
After a pre-season of transfer rumours, highly rated Jamaican striker, Errol Stevens, will lead the line for Hai Phong along with Diego Fagan & Lê Văn Thắng. After narrowly missing out on the title last season on goal difference coach, Trương Việt Hoàng, will be looking to go one step further by winning the clubs first V.League 1 title.
F – Fourteen
There will be fourteen teams competing in this year’s V.League 1.
Becamex Bình Dương, FLC Thanh Hóa, Hà Nội, Hải Phòng, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, Long An, Quảng Nam, Sanna Khánh Hòa BVN, Sài Gòn, SHB Đà Nẵng, Than Quảng Ninh, Sông Lam Nghệ An, TP Hồ Chí Minh and XSKT Cần Thơ
G – Goalkeepers
Vietnam currently have a bright group of young keepers across the league. It will be interesting to see if Trần Nguyên Mạnh can recover from his red card in the Suzuki Cup semi-final to make the number 1 jersey his own, or can one of the numerous talented keepers across the league, including Huỳnh Tuấn Linh (Quang Ninh), Đặng Văn Lâm (Hai Phong), Nguyễn Tuấn Mạnh (Khanh Hoa), Phí Minh Long & Trần Anh Đức (both T&T) stake their claim.
H – Nguyễn Hữu Thắng
National team manager Nguyễn Hữu Thắng, has overseen just two defeats since taking over in March 2016. The first away to Iraq and then a costly AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final loss against Indonesia sparked rumours that the popular coach from Nghe An province was set to quit. These seem to have now disappeared and he’ll be looking forward to sending out his youthful side in the AFC Cup 3rd qualifying round.
I – Investment
Thailand’s SCG have reportedly invested US$1 million over two years to Sponsor Hanoi T&T. The Siam Cement Group sponsor/part own Thailand’s Muangthong United FC.
J – Japan
Japanese midfielder Masaaki Ideguchi was probably the most underrated overseas player in the league last season. The former Yokohama FC midfielder will be looking to lead his side up the table after he successfully marshalled the young HAGL side to safety and another season in the topflight.
K – Kizito
Geoffrey Kizito has taken the name, Trần Trung Hiếu, as he becomes a Vietnamese National. Within a matter of days he flew off to join the Uganda squad for the African Cup of Nations. Confused? me too. Each team is allowed 2 foreign players plus one Nationalised player. Quang Ninh now have Patiyo and Ramon, plus Jardel, who will likely only feature in the AFC Cup, where the quota is higher.
L – Lê Công Vinh
Having made his debut in 2004 at Sông Lam Nghệ An LCV hung up his boots after the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final defeat to Indonesia in December. Considered one of the all time Vietnamese greats he represented T&T, Binh Duong, ACB Hanoi, Consadole (Japan) and home town club SLNA twice, where he is still their all time leading scorer. He score 51 times in 83 appearances for Vietnam. Will he be tempted by one last contract? SLNA perhaps? UPDATE: Turns out not, as since starting this piece he has been unveiled as the Vice-President of promoted TP.HCM and has been credited with the impressive signings of Vitor (T&T) and Dyachenko (Quang Ninh). Didn’t see any of that coming.
M – Gaston Merlo is still Gaston Merlo.
Gaston Merlo, last season’s top scorer with 24 goals, will still be known as Gaston Merlo after his Vietnamese naturalization papers failed to be processed in time. Initial reports suggested the paperwork had come through for Đỗ Merlo, but club president, Bùi Xuân Hòa, revealed the delay, but is hopeful the process will be completed soon. The club were hoping to sign an additional foreign player, Brazite, but will start will Merlo and Eydison.
N – Name changes that did happen.
QNK Quảng Nam will now be known as Quảng Nam FC while Hà Nội T&T will be known as Hà Nội FC after completing a sponsorship deal with Thailand’s SCG, not to be confused with the Hà Nội FC that began last seasons V.League 1 to be sold and moved south after 4 games to become Sai Gon FC. Actually it is confusing. Most historical data online is now an amalgamation of the two clubs.
O – Opening ceremonies.
Expect plenty. Each stadium will hold one, which includes about 5-6 speakers, sometimes performers and even the release of panicked Pigeons. This years opening ceremony for the Super Cup delayed kick-off by 15 minutes.
P – Podcast
A shameless self plug.The first English language Vietnamese football podcast, THE HANOI FOOTBALL SHOW. After a few beers at the start of last season @MarcLostBoyo suggested we make a podcast and we did. This year we hope to get a few interviews with players as well as more from our International correspondent @JoeDeSaulles.
Q – Nguyễn Quốc Hội
Will the charismatic Chairman of Hanoi FC finally see his side win back-to-back league titles? Always a fan favourite, he leads from the front when it’s celebration time and known for his colourful choice in shirts. He recently said he’d swap all the trophies the club have won to see the Hang Day Stadium full each week. Expect more fan initiatives as the club seek to appeal to the thousands of football fans in Vietnam’s Capital City.
R – Rod Dyachenko.
The Russian striker hit an impressive 12 goals in 24 appearances for Quang Ninh as they challeneged for their first ever league title, eventually finishing a creditable 4th and picking up the National Cup with a two legged victory over League Champions T&T. To the surprise of many Dyachenko left Quang Ninh at the end of the season, ahead of their debut in the AFC Cup. He was soon snapped up by newly promoted TP.HCM and will spearhead their attack as they look to make an impression on their debut V.League 1 season.
S – Samson.
Last season saw HOÀNG VŨ SAMSON become the league’s all time leading scorer. At 28 years old the striker can be hoping for another 15-25 goals to add to his tally, if he can stay injury free.
T – TV
The VFF announced it is planning to send TV cameras to every V.League 1 match this season and stream them Live on their Youtube Channel, VPF Media. Highlights of all matches will then be available, along with a selection of V.League 2 matches.
U – Underdogs.
It’s been a busy time in the transfer market, along with some clubs restructuring their club’s ethos. So, with this in mind i’m making a bit of a prediction, the teams I see as underdogs and who are set for a relegation battle. With their main financial backer pulling out Can Tho look set for a long season along with Long An, who maintained their V.League 1 status after a relegation/promotion play-off last year, as this year’s strugglers. Another team who may struggle, which may surprise some, is Binh Duong. Champions just 2 seasons ago, the club have gambled by releasing the majority of their experienced players and opting for youth.
My predictions are notoriously poor, do not place any money based on these!
V – Viettel FC
Will the rise continue for the former greatest side in Vietnamese league history. Viettel have pledge to revert back to the name of their former glories, Thể Công, once they establish themselves back in the top division. Fortunately the fans still use their original name in their chants rather than the telecoms giant. They will face stiff opposition in this years V.League 2 from Nam Dinh (3rd last season), Dong Thap (relegated from V.League 1) and perhaps, sleeping giant, Hue FC.
W – Windmill
The letter W does not feature in the Vietnamese alphabet and there’s not a player whose names begins with it. So, thanks to @JoeDeSaulles, I’m entering the Windmill. If you’re ever at the Hang Day Stadium in Hanoi, it’s a wonderful little brewery nearby, offering blond and dark beers, plus exceptional Cat Fish spring rolls.
X – (Sân Vận Động Hòa) Xuân
Sân Vận Động Hòa Xuân, temporary name for Danangs’ impressive purpose built football stadium, without a running track! There should be a huge crowd as they open the new stadium against Hoàng Anh Gia Lai on 7th January.
Y – Youth.
The exciting Nguyễn Công Phượng & Nguyễn Tuấn Anh seem to have returned (after plenty of rumours) to HAGL after a loan spell at Mito Hollyhock & Yokohama FC respectively. Luong Xuan Truong will stay out on loan at Gangwon FC.
With Le Cong Vinh and Thanh Luong both retiring from the national team the onus is now on promoting youth. Many teams are now opting for youth development over more expensive experienced players. The impressive Academy at PVF has churned out a number of players which have been snapped up by V.League 1 sides in pre-season.
T&T, sorry Hanoi FC, saw young players Văn Kiên, Thành Chung, Phí Minh Long, Đỗ Hùng Dũng & Quang Hải all secure regular places in the title winning side last season.
Z – Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade).
The first manager to win the European Cup has arrived in Vietnam. Some 27 years after guiding Red Star Belgrade to the European Cup, Ljupko Petrović, has taken the reigns at FLC Thanh Hóa. According to his wiki page, FLC Thanh Hóa are the 69 year olds, 27th Club as a manager.
With thanks to @MarcLostBoyo and @JoeDeSaulles