Better deal for football's new generation

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Things are looking promising for tomorrow's Vietnamese footballers as the game gets more professional and the money gets better

It's been a long road but thanks to a number of top players over the years, the next generation of footballers has lucrative careers to look forward to.

The kids who are looking to benefit are being trained at centers like HAGL Arsenal JMG, Scavi Rocheteau, Football Dreams Project and VN PVF in different places around the country.

It all started in the early 1990s when Vietnamese football reintegrated in the region; and talented Vietnamese players like midfielders Lu Dinh Tuan and Nguyen Hong Son, made their mark.

Tuan was the first Vietnamese player the Singaporean club Tampines Rovers took a close look at. They called him "Maradona of Vietnam."

Midfielder Son was much loved by fans after he played beautifully in the Tiger Cup in 1996 in Singapore to win Vietnam the bronze medal.

Most influential, however, was Le Huynh Duc, the country's top striker, whose 13-year career started in 1992.

His name was known outside Vietnam. In 2000, the Chinese club Lifan Chongqing spoke with his Vietnamese club HCMC Police and Duc went to play in China for six months.

"It was a matter of great pride for a Vietnamese player like me to play abroad at the time," Duc said. "I was very happy because it was a chance for me to improve in a better environment.

"The only trouble was the language barrier. I had a very good time there. I received US$2,000 per month plus other benefits like airline tickets and daily supplies.

"It was a handsome amount of money compared with an average income of a player in Vietnam in those years.

"In China, I had an opportunity to play against Chinese big names like striker Hao Haidong, midfielder Li Tie and goalkeeper Ou Chuliang."

After six months, he returned to Vietnam but never had the opportunity to return to China because his Vietnamese club was taken over by DongA Bank who didn't have a close relationship with Lifan Chongqing.

More opportunities

In the past, players were paid minimal salaries but things have improved a lot.

Take striker Le Cong Vinh for example, he was transferred from Song Lam Nghe An to T&T Hanoi for VND7 billion ($393,260) at the beginning of this year. It was a good reward for his talent and efforts.

Things have changed so much that many parents send their children to football training centers hoping they will earn a good income.

Centers like HAGL Arsenal JMG train children for free. When the children are ready, the centers can transfer them to local or foreign clubs to get returns on their investment.

President of V-League club Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), Doan Nguyen Duc said of the HAGL Arsenal JMG, "My dream is to select children every year and train them for seven years to either replace the veterans of the club or transfer them to other clubs - here or overseas."

The children are selected with assistance from experts from England, France, Spain, and Qatar.

Le Huynh Duc, who is currently coach of V-League leaders Da Nang, said, "Vietnamese players now have a good opportunity to become professional and it's not difficult for them to make a lot of money."

Outstanding Vietnamese American midfielder Lee Nguyen, who moved to HAGL from the Danish club Randers early this year, said, "Vietnamese football has enormous potential to develop. The training at HAGL is very good, so the children will surely become excellent players.

"If authorized agencies and individuals take good care of the young generation of footballers this way, they will not only become the pride of the nation but also make a lot of money for themselves."

Lee's transfer fee was no less than $1 million. His current salary is $10,000 per month - a figure that many Vietnamese young players will be able to get in the future.

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