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The Local Game: You need the chicken and the egg

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Hà Nội FC players train ahead of the 2022 V.League 1 season, which has been delayed. Photo thanhnien.vn

By Peter Cowan

It’s the age-old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Science has yet to definitively answer this particular riddle, but it seems to me the boffins who run football in Việt Nam are pretty confident you don’t even need an egg to end up with a chicken.

Bear with me, but in this metaphor the V.League 1 and other domestic football is the egg, while the national team success that we’ve enjoyed in the last few years is the chicken.

The disregard with which all things domestic football are treated in this country reached new heights last week, when the Việt Nam Professional Football Company (VPF) announced the start of the 2022 season would be delayed by a week.

The decision makes zero sense when you consider it was made only a week after the original start date of the season was announced, and when you look at the VPF’s stated reason.

According to zingnews.vn, the VPF said the opening kickoff was delayed to give the national team players more time to recover after their upcoming World Cup fixtures against Australia and China.

Frankly this doesn’t hold water, as these national team fixture dates were known months before the original league starting date announcement was made, so why wasn’t the later starting date the first one to be made public?

Whatever the reason, the result is yet another example of club football being looked at as secondary to national team success.

It gets worse though, as with the delay announcement came the release of some fixture dates for club football, including a whopping 15-week break between the fourth and fifth round of V.League 1 matches.

This break seems to be in place to allow the U22 national team to prepare for and play in the home SEA Games in May.

I understand the SEA Games are important and I am excited to have the chance to attend some events here in Hà Nội, but pausing a professional football season for four months the benefit of an U22 team is ridiculous.

What chance does the league have to attract fans and viewers, and therefore sponsors, with such a huge gap in the season? A year after the season was scrapped altogether, no less.

How can domestic football develop when it always has to make way for national team concerns?

Getting back to poultry-based metaphors, you can’t have a chicken without an egg, and it’s the same for Vietnamese football.

We wouldn’t have enjoyed the national team’s AFF Cup glory in 2018 or the run to the AFC U23 final the same year without the V.League.

That’s because for all its problems, the V.League 1 is still the place where all national team players have to start their development.

Ask any coach or pro and they’ll agree that playing senior football against professionals does far more for a young player’s development than facing off against exclusively their peers ever could.

When livelihoods are on the line, the men are separated from the boys and we see which boys are ready to make the step up.

While they have outgrown the V.League 1 by now, the likes of Nguyễn Quang Hải and Nguyễn Hoàng Đức wouldn’t be where they are now without Vietnamese club football, and they’d be even further along in their development if we had a stronger, more professional V.League 1.

Which is why it’s such a shame that the local game isn’t being given a chance to develop.

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/sports/1116153/the-local-game-you-need-the-chicken-and-the-egg.html

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Na overcomes all challenges to win heptathlon gold

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Nguyễn Linh Na holds the flag high after claiming gold in the SEA Games. — VNA/ Photo Quốc Khánh

Thanh Nga

After 17 years of waiting, Nguyễn Linh Na has helped Vietnamese athletics claim their first SEA Games gold medal in the heptathlon.

Attending the region’s biggest sports event for the first time, Na caused an upset when she won the gold medal in the women’s heptathlon with 5,415 points, breaking Vietnamese Nguyễn Thị Thu Cúc’s 17-year national record of 5,350 points in the process. 

This was also the first time since 2005 that Vietnamese athletics won gold in this category in the regional Games. Na’s achievement is even more special as just two years ago, she intended to retire because of a necrosis injury.

“I think playing one sport is boring, so playing seven sports will be more interesting. It is the first time I have attended the SEA Games and to win the gold medal at home made me extremely happy,” Na said.

Na is 25 years old. She is a Mường ethnic from Hòa Bình Province and is an athlete in the Military team. A few months ago, her achievement at the national championship was 5,096 points and she herself was surprised that she was able to improve her achievement by more than 300 points to win the SEA Games gold medal at home.

A challenging medal

The heptathlon is the toughest event to win a medal in the track and field. At this year’s Games, only six athletes from Việt Nam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand participated. SEA Games 30 bronze medalist Sunisa Khotseemueang of Thailand dropped out after the first three sports.

Na and Hoàng Phương Giang represented Việt Nam. They had to compete in seven sports in just two days including 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m run, long jump, javelin throw, and 800m run.

“When I competed in the first sports, I didn’t think I could win. Really, right now I don’t still believe I took the gold medal. The score of 5,415 is also my best achievement so far,” Na said.

“At first, I was a bit nervous because I attended the SEA Games for the first time. But the home turf advantage and support of the audience gave me a great motivation to achieve this result. I would like to thank everyone,” Na added.

Na’s victory was even more meaningful as she overcame the SEA Games 30 gold medalist Sarah Dequinan of the Philippines and SEA Games 30 silver medalist Norliyana Kamaruddin of Malaysia.

The coach who inspired Na is a familiar face of military and Vietnamese sports, Lieutenant Colonel Vũ Văn Huyện. Huyện is famous in the region, having won gold in the men’s decathlon in four consecutive SEA Games.

Huyện himself was also surprised by Na’s achievement: “I thought Na would win about 5,200 points as in the national championship in 2021, her score was only 5,096 points. However, she performed well in all events and won a spectacular gold medal. The desire to dedicate herself to the country’s sports at her first Games has given Na a great source of strength”.

“I was more nervous and trembling when I watched Na compete than when I competed in the past. However, she was good, really good. I saw that she has supernatural power. She performed smoothly in any categories, without errors. She suffered an injury to her thigh but she never gave up. Her fitness was only about 70 per cent but her efforts were great,” Huyện added.

According to Na, she met her injury after completing the 2020 tournament and had to have surgery.

“In 2020, I had a period when I wanted to quit training because this sport requires a lot of physical strength. I was very discouraged and wanted to give up, but my will did not allow it. I wanted to play at the SEA Games held at home, compete for the first time and bring glory to the country,” Na said.

 

Nguyễn Linh Na celebrates her win with her mother. — Photo thanhnien.vn

Witnessing her daughter win a gold medal at the Mỹ Đình National Stadium, Nguyễn Thị Thủy, Na’s mother, said: “That’s what I expected. Before, I just thought it was a dream, but the Games 31 has turned the dream come true. When I hold my daughter in my arms, I could only say thank you.”

Thủy said Na didn’t tell her about her difficult times in training, only promising to try her best to win.

From an unknown athlete in Vietnamese athletics, Na has gradually asserted herself, overcoming injuries and difficulties during training and competition to reach the pinnacle of regional success.

This is the “sweet fruit” for the Mường girl after more than ten years of training in this fierce sport.

 

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/sports/1205689/na-overcomes-all-challenges-to-win-heptathlon-gold.html

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Wimbledon to remove ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ from honours boards: report

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Wimbledon will drop the titles “Miss” and “Mrs” before the names of female winners on its honour roll to match the men’s boards in an attempt to modernise the tournament, The Times newspaper reported.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club has traditionally used the titles just for women – Ash Barty, last year’s champion, was refereed to as “Miss A. Barty” whereas men’s winner Novak Djokovic went on the board as “N. Djokovic”.

In 2019, organisers did away with the use of honorifics when announcing scores in women’s matches but the events continue to be referred to as “gentlemen’s singles” and “ladies’ singles”.

The change will also put an end to married women being identified by both the initials and surnames of their husbands.

The grasscourt major, which has been stripped of ranking points by the ATP and WTA over its decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players due to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, gets underway on June 27.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/sports/20220527/wimbledon-to-remove-miss-and-mrs-from-honours-boards-report/67335.html

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This needs nipping in the bud asap

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City fans broke the crossbar during a pitch invasion last Sunday. — AFP Photo.

 

Paul Kennedy

A study carried out a few years ago by researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Alabama in the US came to the conclusion that when a particular sporting team wins, fans experienced a high that lasted at least two days.

It suggested that supporters will feel a huge boost to their own personal self-esteem following a particular victory for at least 48 hours.

I’m sorry to rain on the parade of those who carried out the study, but you are kind of stating the obvious really.

My team wins, ergo I feel good for a bit. It’s not really rocket science is it?

Over the past few weeks, football fans have had an awful lot to feel good about. But sadly some have expressed their joy in a concerning way.

After Nottingham Forest beat Sheffield United to ensure a place in the EFL Championship play-off final, Forest fans rushed the pitch en masse.

During the melee that followed, United’s Billy Sharp was head-butted by one of the hundreds of pitch-invaders.

The following week, after Everton beat Crystal Palace to ensure Premier League survival, thousands of jubilant Evertonians also invaded the pitch.

This time it was Palace manager Patrick Vieira who reacted, kicking out at an Everton supporter who was clearly goading him.

I can’t defend Patrick for his reaction, but there is part of me which understands why he did it.

Then again, after Manchester City won the Premier League title on the last day of the campaign, another invasion, with Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen attacked by a City supporter as he made his way off the pitch.

In the case of Billy Sharp, justice has been swift. A man was arrested, charged and jailed for 24 weeks for the assault.

Two City fans have also been charged by police following the incident at the Etihad Stadium.

There’s no better feeling that winning, but to celebrate in the manner we’ve seen this week is nothing short of appalling.

I don’t know how it can be stopped either. When tens of thousands of supporters feel the urge to invade the pitch, there’s little the police and stewards can do about it.

Nobody wants go back to the dark days of the 1980s and see fencing erected at stadiums but I honestly can’t offer a better solution.

You can’t change the behaviour of the average football fans in England. Their support is tribal, and all common sense goes out the window when an important victory is secured.

Maybe UK football fans should take a look east to understand how passion and euphoria can be expressed in an unbridled, yet safe manner.

Việt Nam’s U23 men’s and women’s football teams both won gold at the SEA Games last week. And sure, it may not be the first team, and with the greatest respect to the tournament, there are plenty bigger to compete for.

But after the final whistle, the country came alive as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate the victories.

And while it may have been chaotic for a good few hours, it was perfectly safe, trouble free and great fun to be part of.

Maybe for their next assignment, academics at Ohio State University and the University of Alabama should study Vietnamese football fans. Here the euphoria and self-esteem following an important victory lasts a hell of a lot longer than just a few days.

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/sports/1205288/this-needs-nipping-in-the-bud-asap.html

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