SEA Games 2019: Park has got five weeks, but some players lack playing time

By Hoang Nguyen, Song VietApril 8, 2019 | 09:33 pm PT
SEA Games 2019: Park has got five weeks, but some players lack playing time
Vietnam (white) play Indonesia at the AFF U22 Youth Championship on April 24, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
Coach Park Hang-seo has got the time he asked for, but it only solves a part of the preparation equation.

The schedule for national league fixtures and other competitions will be adjusted for the Vietnamese men’s U22 team to have at least five weeks to prepare for SEA Games 30, which starts in late November.

Announcing this, Vietnam Football Federation president Le Khanh Hai, said that V. League, the top professional football league in the country, will conclude its 2019 season on October 6 instead of the original date of October 26.

With this rescheduling, V. League clubs will have to play one game per three days instead of the usual five days.

Given the target of getting a gold medal at SEA Games 30, coach Park Hang-seo had requested a minimum period of five weeks for the team to prepare. He had made the request before the 2020 U23 AFC qualifiers, which Vietnam contested successfully, earning a ticket to the tournament next year.

But preparation time is just one of the problems that Vietnam has to solve on the road as major tournaments near.

In the U23 AFC qualifiers, Park and his boys only needed two weeks to top their group with three wins, including a 4-0 thrashing of Thailand. These victories had solid contributions from national team players like Nguyen Quang Hai, Tran Dinh Trong and Ha Duc Chinh. While new talents like Nguyen Hoang Duc or Huynh Tan Sinh impressed with their performances, things might have gone differently without the experience of the national team players.

Towards the end of the year, things get hectic with tournament after tournament, carrying the risk of the national team players being burned out, having to play in the domestic league season, then immediately prepare for the 2022 World Cup qualification matches in mid-November. Later, they have to join the U22 team to train and prepare for SEA Games 30, which will start later the same month.

If these key players are burned out, it will be very difficult for Vietnam to obtain good results in these tournaments. The upcoming competitions are the second round of 2022 World Cup qualification, SEA Games 30 and the U23 AFC Championship in January 2020.

To do well at all three tournaments, Park needs to balance the management of both the youth team and the national team.

With the youth team not meeting expectations, some national players will have to pitch in for both teams, which is a very tiring proposition.

Park’s need for five weeks is to teach the young players, who have not gotten enough playing time with their clubs, and have to be trained from scratch, from tactics to playing styles.

Park Hang-seo instructs a training session with Vietnams U23 squad in Hanoi on March 8, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Park Hang-seo instructs a training session with Vietnam's U23 squad in Hanoi on March 8, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Playing time

According to statistics, only 60 of 420 players registered to play in V. League 2019 are 22 years and younger. Which means only 15 percent of the players in the league are young. And these young athletes get very little play time, with less than 10 percent given a chance to play.

Five clubs in V. League have only three U22 players in their roster, including clubs with the reputation for training young players, like Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC and Song Lam Nghe An FC. Clubs with highest number of young players are Viettel FC (13) and Hanoi FC (11).

This has happened because there is no V. League rule to force clubs to blood young players. The rule is that players who are 16 and above are eligible to be registered for V. League, but using them is not compulsory. Also in the book, a V. League club has to have three youth teams (U17, U19 and U21) to play in competitions involving these categories. But these competitions often lack participants. The clubs who don’t participate only get a warning or a fine of a few thousand dollars.

Young players are the future of Vietnamese football and they need to play more on the field. If these players got to play regularly, Park wouldn’t have had to ask for over a month of training for them. He and his assistants will have to make do with watching these players play before making their choices, instead of calling all of them for training and evaluation.

How this lack of time will play out on the field, only time will tell.

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