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The Local Game: Three bold predictions for the 2023 V.League season




Hà Nội Police FC have made waves with their signings ahead of the new season. — Photo of Hà Nội Police FC

Peter Cowan

I hope you didn’t spend all your lì xì (lucky money) already, because it’s almost time to start buying tickets for the return of the V.League.

Before the start of V.League 1 play this Friday evening, it’s time for me to look foolish with a few bold predictions for the season to come.

Hà Nội Police FC to win the title

Countries worldwide have sports clubs whose origins come from institutions like the police, fire brigade, army, navy and others, so there’s nothing that out of the ordinary about seeing one make it to the top tier.

What’s unique about Hà Nội Police FC is how they have managed to scoop up some of the league’s best players.

National team star Phan Văn Đức arrived from Sông Lam Nghệ An a mere 18 months after signing a monster three-year deal with his hometown club.

Đoàn Văn Hậu, most famous for a loan spell in the Netherlands for SC Heerenveen in 2020, was prised away from Hà Nội FC shortly after the end of their title celebrations.

I could go on and list at least half a dozen more household names who recently arrived, but the point is Hà Nội Police FC have added a whole lot of star power in a short time.

Whoever is in charge of their recruitment has likely earned a promotion as I reckon they could cruise to league glory. I also suspect the ball might bounce their way a few times in the title race and you do need a bit of luck.

Hoàng Anh Gia Lai to be relegated

How the mighty have fallen.

It wasn’t long ago that Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) were playing the best football in the country and atop the league.

Now though, their best players have pretty much all left for pastures new at home and abroad, with the exception of the chocolate-ankled Nguyễn Tuấn Anh.

On top of that there’s the controversy with their sponsor Carabao, the energy drinks brand most famous for sponsoring England’s League Cup.

The Việt Nam Professional Football Joint Stock Company (VPF) have told HAGL they can’t promote Caraboa because the league’s main sponsor is a competing energy drinks brand. I’ll let you make up your own mind on the rationality of that decision.

A severely depleted playing squad and a row with the VPF before a ball has been kicked don’t auger well.

A Vietnamese national to be top scorer

I make this prediction every year – surely it has to hit eventually?

In all honesty, it looks less likely this year as two of the country’s top forwards, Nguyễn Công Phượng and Nguyễn Văn Toàn, have moved abroad, but it’s spring, and hope springs eternal.

Becamex Bình Dương forward Nguyễn Tiến Linh is the man most likely to make me look like I know what I’m talking about, while Hà Nội FC’s Phạm Tuấn Hải has an outside shot. — VNS



National Wrestling Championship opens in Thanh Hóa



Athletes compete in the National Wrestling Championship on Monday. VNA/VNS Photo

THANH HÓA — The National Wrestling Championship opened in the central province of Thanh Hóa on Monday.

This year’s tournament attracted the participation of about 300 athletes from 19 clubs across the country, competing in the women’s and men’s freestyle and classical events for 33 sets of medals.

The event’s best athletes will be selected for the upcoming SEA Games 32 in Cambodia in May.

The event was co-organised by the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, National Sports Administration and Việt Nam Wrestling Federation.

It will last until March 18. VNS


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The Local Game:I love to say I told you so



The next V.League 1 fixture is in April. Photo: 

Peter Cowan

The phrase “I hate to say I told you so” has never really resonated with me.

One of my many flaws is I love being right and have no hesitation when it comes to letting others know that, and it’s happened again.

My last column sang the praises of the Viet Nam Football Federation (VFF) for hiring Philippe Troussier as the new head coach of the national team, though I also mentioned he’ll need to be backed to the hilt to succeed.

Surprise surprise, one of the things he said he needs to build a strong national team is a strong domestic league which if you read these pages regularly, is something I’ve been banging on about forever.

“I think it is necessary to improve the competitiveness and rhythm of the game for the Vietnamese team by maintaining the V.League, the Frenchman said last week according to

“I hope in the future, Vietnamese players can play 45-50 V.League matches a season and the domestic league can last up to 10 months,”

He went on to lament the fact that V.League 1 players will have played only four matches in a period of four months, as the domestic season has taken a 45-day break.

Ostensibly this break is meant to allow the various national teams time to train together for competitions, but there are no fixtures planned for the senior team.

Indeed, the closest thing to a high profile international competition in this break is the AFC U20 Championship, which Viet Nam have already crashed out of.

So if the man hired to develop the national team into a continental force is against a long mid-season break, if fans are against it and the coaches of several V.League 1 teams are against it, who is in favour of this nonsense?

Coach Park Hang-seo certainly was in favour of extending national team training camps, but he’s no longer in charge, Troussier is, so those in power over the domestic game should start taking his opinion into consideration.

Moving from a stop-start and not very strenuous league season to playing 40-50 matches a year might initially be tough for local players, but the results in the long term would be worth it.

And of course if we had a normal league schedule, those of us who write a weekly column about domestic football would have a much easier time picking what to write about each week! VNS


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Arnis team won’t just stick to what they know at SEA Games 32



The Vietnamese arnis team training for the SEA Games 32. — Photo courtesy of

SEA Games 

HÀ NỘI — As the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games approach, the Vietnamese arnis team is preparing themselves for the upcoming competition with the lofty aim of clinching three gold medals.

The traditional Filipino martial arts team, consisting of 23 members, is set to compete in a total of 12 events, which includes eight combat events and four performance-based competitions.

In order to accomplish their ambitious goal, the team has been training tirelessly, dedicating themselves to four intense training sessions a day.

“Because the regional event is coming near, the training board and athletes are determined to increase the intensity of training to reach our goal,” said coach Nguyễn Thái Linh.

Vietnamese martial artists also competed in this sport in the 30th Games in the Philippines. However, until the 31st Games, this sport was not organised.

The 32nd SEA Games, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and the northwestern Cambodian City of Siem Reap from May 5-16, will be the first time the event has featured at the games outside of the Philippines.

Many of the Vietnamese athletes participating in this sport come from other sports, not those who specialise in this one.

Arnis has its own characteristics, so the process of selecting and converting athletes from other martial arts is not always easy.

“Although it is a new sport, since the Games 2019 in the Philippines, we also had a number of athletes compete in this sport and achieved achievements in the combat categories,” Linh added. “But this time, we met difficulties as some athletes have retired. The hosts have also placed limitations on the weight classes.”

The Vietnamese team will be supported by experts from the Philippines to improve their skills.


Đào Thị Hồng Nhung, who won gold in the Games in the Philippines in 2019, will feature again. However, gaining gold will be not easy for the champion.

“I am a pencak silat athlete,” Nhung said. “When I compete in arnis, I have to use a stick and only use one hand, so everything has to start from the beginning.”

“The whole team have been training new techniques. The biggest difficulty for us is technical issues.”

The subtle differences compared to other martial arts mean athletes must adjust their fighting style. 

Công Quốc, a Muay Thai athlete, is one of those trying to make the change. 

“Compared to Muay Thai, in arnis fighters use a stick, wear shoes and have a different way of moving, so it’s a bit surprising,” Quốc said. “But as athletes, we already have good fitness and expertise, we just need to add more techniques.” VNS


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