Hanoi: As 2019 enters its last days, Vietnam can look back on two years of phenomenal development with the runners-up finish in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship followed by numerous successes, climaxing with the Southeast Asian nation ending a 60-year wait for the SEA Games gold medal earlier in December.
Vietnam are now the undisputed kings of ASEAN football, having added the 2019 SEA Games gold to the 2018 AFF Cup title.
The results of the various national teams, explains Vietnam Football Federation Vice-President Dr Tran Quoc Tuan to the-AFC.com, has massively boosted interest in the game and the Southeast Asian nation is determined to take the next step forward.
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Q: Vietnam has seen tremendous growth over the last few years - from the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China PR to the AFF Cup, followed by a great performance in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 as well as winning the 2019 SEA Games gold medal. What would you say is the root cause of these success?
A: Vietnam football has achieved considerable achievements in regional and confederation competitions during the last two years.
However, before that, in 2016 and 2017, some active signals in development were seen. Vietnam's U-16 men’s national team qualified for the quarter-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship 2016 after 16 years, Vietnam's national futsal team qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 and the Vietnam U-19 team (pictured below) - for the first time - qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017.
These results can be considered the inheritable factors and also the results of a long and well prepared course.
Besides the orientation, investments and strategic solutions of Vietnam FF, it can be said that the Clubs’ contribution, youth football training centres and affiliated Member Associations have all played important parts in the progress of the national teams.
We would like to express out heartfelt gratitude to the Asian Football Confederation for the valuable support and assistance through human resources development and education projects and the organisation of professional and high quality competitions which have created opportunities for the Vietnam national teams to have much more international exposure against top level football teams in the Continent.
Has Vietnam’s recent success translated into more youth picking up the sport?
One of the biggest rewards for Vietnam football through the achievements of the national teams is concern and support from society for football development. Football inspires pride, patriotism and community connection each time the national teams play.
In fact, the national teams’ achievements not only bring more and more spectators to stadiums but also give inspiration to Vietnamese children to play football. The most typical evidence can be seen through the recent establishment and expansion of Football for All centres where parents can bring their children to play football.
Could you share the ongoing programmes for grassroots, coach elite youth and coach development that are in place?
School football development, bringing football and futsal to schools by means of extra-curricular activities, is our immediate plan. Apart from that, through the assistance of FIFA and AFC, Vietnam FF will enhance the programmes for Coach Education, referees and youth football.
On the other hand, with an aim to have strong national teams, it is crucial to further invest and assist the development of clubs.
It is necessary to combine government investment and enterprise investment to improve the technical infrastructure for elite football competitions, encouragement of economic and private organisations to be involved in education and provision of players for Clubs like the model of PVF – Youth football training centre or Hoang Anh Gia Lai Football academy.
Planning for the future is essential in maintaining a steady success. How is VFF tackling this?
The first thing we need to do is continue building and improving the national teams, clubs and professional competitions' branding values, as well as mobilising the different resources with an aim to ensure stable financial resources for training camps and competitions of national teams.
Apart from that, we will also continue to expand international relations to take advantage of the assistance from developed football nations.
At the same time, we will also make great efforts to host AFC competitions to improve the technical performances of the current generation of players.
We will continue to have close cooperation with government bodies with the aim of helping domestic clubs connect with developed countries’ football academies, expanding youth football development cooperation and learning from other countries’ professional football development modern.
Is there any Member Association that serves as a role model for VFF?
Vietnam belongs to the football developing countries group, therefore it is necessary to learn from experiences and models of developed football countries. There is a Vietnamese saying “gain a head start by taking a shortcut” when expressing about shortening the development period among stages.
Personally, I think it is a good solution for Vietnam football to boost the speed and narrow the gap with world level football.
However, it is also very important to pay attention to selection, direction, specific strategy for each stage of development, as well as making full use of all resources in order to create a good foundation for Vietnam football.
In the past five years, Vietnam FF has strongly expanded international cooperation with developed football countries for the development of Vietnam football.
We have important cooperation agreements with top Asian Member Associations such as Korea Republic, Japan and Qatar, through which Vietnam national teams have opportunities to have training camps and good preparation before international competitions.
Our upcoming plans are to continue expanding international cooperation with international football associations/organisations, learning professional football management and organisation structure from FIFA and AFC.
The Vietnam U23 team will be competing in the AFC U23 Championship for the third consecutive time. What would it mean for Vietnam to win the title?
The outstanding achievement of the Vietnam U23 national team qualifying for the final of AFC U23 Championship China 2018 has been the milestone of Vietnam football so far.
The excellent performance of the Vietnam U23 team had created the first ever happy atmosphere in the whole country.
The image of Vietnam fans celebrating with the national flag and cheering every victory has been seen across many countries.
The success of the Vietnam U23 team has created favorable conditions for football development in Vietnam.
A top three finish in the AFC U23 Championship would also mean a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a first for Vietnam. What would this mean for the development of football?
I think the historical achievements always bring great motivation for football to develop, at the same time, this is also considered the effective platform for patriotism education, national pride and promotion of Vietnam to the world.
The clearest evidence can be seen after the historical success of the Vietnam U23 team finishing as runners-up in the AFC U23 Championship 2018.
It is hard to achieve success, however, it is much harder to retain it. Therefore, we need to put greater efforts by means of investment for the talented players that we have.
For the long term, we need to ensure a strong platform for the national teams through development and improvement of professional football competitions.
Head coach Park Hang-seo has been a core member of the squad, how important are his contributions in terms of vision and impact to the national team, as well as the U23s?
It cannot be denied that the leader’s role is very important and the key to success. And football is not without this philosophy.
Within the national team, Mr Park Hang-seo has successfully carried out his duties and responsibilities as the head coach. This is the main reason we extended Mr Park's contract.
We will continue to create favorable conditions for Mr Park to fulfill his responsibilities with the Vietnam national team.
Apart from that, there will be discussions between us with the aim of building a roadmap, orientation and solutions for the national team's development, especially in the context of Vietnam football’s target for the FIFA World Cup 2026.
The success of Mr Park Hang-seo, together with the Vietnam national team and U23 national team during the last two years shows that Vietnam football can make miracles. We strongly believe so.
Photos: AFP, FIFA via Getty Images, Vietnam Football Federation, AFP
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