Vietnam Football Federation's Disciplinary Committee Thursday decided to suspend 21-year-old Hoang Danh Ngoc for 18 months and fine him VND2.4 billion for unilaterally ending his contract with football club Nam Dinh.
This is the most severe punishment meted out to a player for such an offense so far in Vietnam.
Ngoc's contract with Nam Dinh does not end until December 2013 when he is over 23 years old. But two onths ago, he expressed his desire for a premature termination of the contract.
While things had not yet been settled, Ngoc began to practice with players at the Ninh Binh Club, so Nam Dinh, relegated from top-tier V-League to First Division at the end of the 2010 season, petitioned the VFF's disciplinary committee for a settlement.
The committee decided that Ngoc had violated Article 55 of the committee's regulations. The committee said it had arrived at the sum of VND2.4 billion (US$123,000) by multiplying by ten the estimated money spent by Nam Dinh over eight years on training Ngoc (VND30 million x 8).
Though he'd considered the possibility of being suspended, Ngoc was shocked by the heavy penalty.
He said, "I am surprised I have to get such a heavy penalty. I've made considerable contributions to Nam Dinh Club and the under-23 national team. I will write to VFF and ask for a lighter penalty."
Ngoc said he just wanted to move to a better environment to improve his skills and make better contributions to the country.
Nguyen Hai Huong, chief of VFF's disciplinary committee said, who signed the decision, said, "We considered all the details very carefully. The penalty can't be said to be heavy or light because the committee made the decision based on details in the documents.
"We also considered other elements like Ngoc's contributions to the nation. However, what everyone should respect is the rules of professional football."
Huong said Ngoc can't take Nam Dinh's relegation as an excuse to move to another club to play in a more professional environment. Players must respect rules. Clubs should respect rules, too; otherwise, they could harm both themselves and players, he said.
Ngoc began to play for Nam Dinh in 2007. He won the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia with Vietnam's under-23 team in 2008; and took the Thang Long Hanoi Cup championship in Ho Chi Minh City with the same team in September, 2010.
However, this is not the first time he has been penalized. In March, 2009, he was suspended for six matches for giving the finger to fans of the opposing club in a game between Nam Dinh and The Cong.