Vietnamese football fans have been described as ‘the happiest in the world’, after the resumption of the game following the recent world crisis.
Football across the globe ground to a halt, with only Belarus carrying on through the late spring months. Germany saw the Bundesliga resume recently, but in Southeast Asia, Vietnam led the way by resuming the 2020 National Cup.
The first game took place between Nam Dinh and Hoang Anh Gia Lai, attracting 10,000 supporters in a show of the sport’s popularity in Vietnam. It led to quotes widely reported in the global press, including the Vietnam Times, claiming: “Vietnamese football fans are perhaps the happiest in the world at the moment, being able to enjoy the stadium atmosphere again in the National Cup games after they were postponed for two months.”
Nam Dinh won the game 2-0 but were beaten a week later by Than Quang Ninh on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Next up is action from V League 1, which was postponed after just two matches. The table was led by Ho Chi Minh City FC, who finished second last season behind Hanoi FC, but there is plenty to play for, especially with all but two of the national team’s players coming from the domestic league. Currently, only Doan Van Hau is appearing in Europe, on loan at Dutch side Heerenveen from Hanoi FC, but as the game resumes in Vietnam, many more of its young stars could catch the eye of European clubs.
Football is taken very seriously in the country, with hopes that one day their national team can compete in a World Cup. In a guide to Vietnam by ExpatBets, it explains how the country allows sports betting on international matches, making it a thriving hotbed of football in Asia. The return of football attracted strong crowds, which reflects how eagerly anticipated the game was.
The Vietnamese dream is to see their country qualify for a World Cup, something they have been unable to do so far. However, under South Korean coach Park Hang-seo, hopes have been raised that they might be on the right track. In 2018, the Golden Dragon won the AFF Championship, beating Malaysia 3-2 over two legs in the final.
They have followed that up with an impressive World Cup qualifying campaign so far. There is a long way to go before they might believe that Qatar 2020 is within reach, but after five matches they top Group G in the AFC Second Round. That group contains Malaysia, who are second, as well as the United Arab Emirates, who have appeared at one World Cup (1990), as well as reaching the final stages of qualification for Russia 2018.
They do still have a trip to the UAE to face but take confidence from having beaten them 1-0 in November. Live Sport Asia reports that the result lifted them to 94th in the FIFA world rankings, closing in on their highest ever place of 84th. A visit to Malaysia could have a bearing on the winner of the group, but with winless bottom team Indonesia yet to visit the My Dinh National Stadium, the odds are that Vietnam and coach Hang-seo could move into the tougher final stages, where a place at Qatar potentially awaits.
That would be a huge boost for the game in Vietnam, further adding to the current popularity. Having never qualified for the tournament, it is impressive their domestic game can still attract 10,000 fans for fixtures, especially as they were ranked as low as 172nd by FIFA in 2006. Should they finally arrive on the international scene, that popularity would surely increase and maybe even see more Vietnamese talent move to one of the world’s major leagues?
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