Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Vietnam. There are big celebrations even when Vietnam loses but scores a goal against foreign competitors. Betting on soccer is a major pass time. So is soccer violence in some cities. The sport has been blackened by riots, dead fans and match-fixing. A member of Vietnam’s national sports committee once said, "Our players have to relearn the spirit of sport and understand that we don't play matches using deceit."

The Vietnamese national team does okay against other nations from Southeast Asia—it generally beats teams from Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos and Malaysia but loses to Thailand— but doesn’t do so well in international competitions outside the region. The Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam has lobbied FIFA to give Vietnam more money so it can develop a decent soccer program. Vietnam lacks the kind of support, money and sponsorship deals it needs to build a strong soccer program. Many Vietnamese feel the team is held back by the shortness of their players.

Association football (soccer) in Vietnam is run by the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF). The federation administers the Vietnam national football team, as well as the V-League, Vietnam First Division, and the Vietnam Second Division. The annual V-League competition has taken place since 1980 (except in 1988 and 1999). Hoang Ang Gia Lai is one of the stronger teams in Vietnam. [Source: Wikipedia +]

When Vietnam was split into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, two national teams existed. The North Vietnamese national team was not very active, playing almost exclusively against other Communist countries between 1956 and 1966, whilst the South Vietnamese national team took part in the first two AFC Asian Cup finals, finishing fourth place both times. Clubs AJS, Canh sát (Police), Tong Tham Muu (ARVN General Staff) and Quan Thue' (Customs) dominated the South's football until 1975. +

V. League: Vietnam’s Soccer League

At the end of the 2012 season, the organizing power was transferred from the VFF to the VPF (Vietnamese Professional Football), and the V.League was initially changed to the Super League, although this name is short-lived and the league was renamed back to V.League later in the season. The first division was renamed the V.League 2. At the same time, many clubs found themselves in financial and sponsor issues, and many clubs withdrew, merge, bought another or failed to meet requirements for leagues. As a result, the number of clubs in each league changed dramatically. The 2013 V.League 1 contains 12 clubs, the 2013 V.League 2 contains 8 clubs, and the 2013 Vietnamese Second Division contains 17 clubs. +

Domestic leagues: Men: 1) V. League 1 (Vietnamese Super League): 12 clubs (before it had 14 clubs; 2) V. League 2; 8 clubs (before it had 14 clubs); 3) Vietnamese Second Division: 17 clubs (before it had 14 clubs); with with Group A containing only 5 teams, while the other 2 groups contains 6 teams each as usual.; 4) Vietnamese Third Division: not limited. +

Describing the beginning of the V. League soccer tournament in 2003, the Vietnam News Agency reported: "Viet Nam's professional soccer championships -2003 (V-League) began with six matches taking place in all parts of the country. In Hanoi, Hang Khong Viet Nam (HKVN) team (former Hanoi police) beat LG.ACB-Hanoi 1-0. The goal was scored by Quoc Hung from outside the penalty area. At Chua Cuoi stadium of Nam Dinh city, the home team defeated the The Cong (army team) 1-0 when Trong Loc netted a goal just one minute before the match was over. At Cao Lanh, the home team of Dong Thap lost 0-2 to Gach Dong Tam eleven. Meanwhile, at Pleiku stadium of the Central Highlands, Hoang Anh Gia Lai beat Song Lam Nghe An 2-1. All the three goals were scored by foreign players. At Thong Nhat stadium of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), defending champion Cang Sai Gon was defeated 1-2 by Ngan Hang Dong A (former HCMC police), while at Chi Lang stadium of central Da Nang city, the home team beat the Binh Dinh eleven 1-0, when Bao Hung scored a goal from a 20-m long free-kick. [Source: Vietnam News Agency, January 19, 2003]

Soccer Fans and Soccer Games in Vietnam

Ole Dross, a German soccer fan, wrote in Vietnam,net: "It is very easy for me to pursue this passion in Viet Nam. I can watch my favourite club's every match live on TV and I always find somebody to talk about the latest action. But there is a certain point where the interest of most Vietnamese stops. They love football and can tell you the scores of every European football match, but if you ask them about their own national championship (the V-League) they normally can't tell you how many teams play in the league, which team is the current champion or even if their city has a side in the V-League. This made me even more eager to get to grips with local football. [Source: Ole Dross, Vietnam,net, December 10, 2013 :]

"For the uninitiated, here is some background information on the V-League. The League has 12 teams, meaning there is a total of 22 match days. In contrast to Europe, they don't play from August until May, instead following the calendar year. The last match day of the 2013 season was on September 1, when Ha Noi T&T were crowned champions. Twice I went to Hang Day Stadium to watch Ha Noi T&T and it was a great experience. Of course you can't compare the standard to the football played in the top European leagues, but visiting the stadium is still really worthwhile. :

"The first favourable comparison is the ticket price. While you have to pay an average price of about VND1 million for a match in Germany and even more in England, you get a category one seat on the halfway line for about VND50,000 in Viet Nam. Financially speaking, it therefore makes more sense to go to a stadium in Viet Nam. This price difference also applies to food and drinks in the stadium. :

"Although the Vietnamese stadiums aren't full, the atmosphere is always impressive. The fans go to the stadium with big drums and spend the whole 90 minutes singing and dancing, no matter what the score is. It is a very friendly atmosphere, far different from what I'm used to at European stadiums, where fans boo the opposing team, referee or their own team for large parts of the match. :

"The match itself is much slower than in Europe, but it is also much tougher. In Germany we often talk about "British Hardness" in tackles, but compared to Vietnamese football the British are positively tame. As a result, there are far more stoppages fouls and a lot more penalties. For the first time in my life I witnessed a match featuring four penalties, which isn't a rare event in the V-League. Partly due to the penalties, but maybe also because of the smaller goalkeepers, you see a lot more goals in local stadiums. Both times I watch-ed five-goal thrillers, while 2-2 or 3-3 are more common results than 0-0 or 1-1. :

"The last surprising aspect is the players. I was shocked by how many foreigners are playing in the V-League. Most teams at least have one tall African striker and several players from South America, especially Brazil and Argentina. There are even some Europeans playing for Vietnamese teams." :

History of Soccer in Vietnam

The first people who played football in Saigon were French civil servants, merchants and soldiers; some Vietnamese then picked it up. A club called Cercle Sportif Saigonnais (Saigon Sports Circle) was founded and later the oval-shaped ball was replaced by a round-shaped one and the games were played at the city park, called Jardin de la Ville (today Tao Dàn Park). In 1905, a British warship named after King Alfred visited Saigon and its football team had a friendly match against a local team composed of Vietnamese and French players. This was considered as the first international football match in Vietnam. [Source: Wikipedia +]

E. Breton, a member of France's L'Union des Sociétés Français des Sports Athlétiques brought football rules into Vietnam in 1906, and as a chairman of Cercle Sportif Saigonnais, he reorganized the club similar to football clubs in France. Some other clubs started to appear, such as Infanterie, Saigon Sport, Athletic Club, Stade Militaire, Tabert Club. Local cups were soon held afterwards. As a well-trained team, Cercle Sportif Saigonnais won for many times, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1916. Football came to the North of Vietnam (or Tonkinchina) in about 1906–1907. Some local press told about matches played by Legion Dáp Ca'u and Olympique Hai Phòng in 1909. On the first match, Olympique won by 2-1, but they failed by 8-1 next time. In February 1912, Hanoi Football club (Stade Hanoien) was founded. The team was composed of Vietnamese and French players. +

Some Vietnamese learned the game's regulations and established their own teams. The first two Vietnamese teams founded in 1907 were Gia Dinh Sport run by Ba Ve and Phú Khai and Ngôi Sao Xanh (Blue Star) run by Nguyen Dình Tri. These two teams then came together to form "Ngôi sao Gia Dinh" (Gia Dinh Star). Prior to 1920, it had defeated all other teams, including Cercle Sportif Saigonnais (in 1917), and became the champion. Other teams include: Victoria Sportive, Commerce Sport, Jean Compte, Sport Cholonaise, Khánh Hoi Sport, Tân Dinh Sport, Gò Vap, Hiep Hòa, Cho Quán, Phú Nhuan, Dong Nai, Enfants de Troupe; in other provinces: Thu Dau Mot, Ca'n Tho, Sóc Trang, Sa Déc, Gò Công, Châu Do'c, My Tho. New grounds were developed, namely Citadelle, Renault (in front of current Tho'ng Nha't Stadium), Fourière, Mayer, and Marine. +

Football fans and some leaders then managed to form the (Vietnamese) Department of Football. Nguyen Dình Tri. was elected as head of board of directors and the Department itself developed its own field by buying more land. At that time, there was already a French Department of Football, therefore the two departments had no cooperation but some matches as in Cochin China Championship. In a match between Cercle Sportif Saigonnais and Ngôi sao Gia Dinh in 1925, Paul Thi, Ngôi sao's player was dismissed by a French referee, that led to his everlasting suspension and further conflicts between the two departments. The Championship was then delayed for many years until 1932, in which 6 Vietnamese and 3 French teams took part. Between 1925 and 1935, Ngôi sao Gia Dinh were known for many famous players, e.g. Sách, Thom, Nhie'u, Quý, Tinh, Xuo'ng, Trung, Thi, Vi, Mùi. About 29 cups were held, in which Ngôi sao got the champion for 8 times. +

Football activities in Vietnam were delayed during the World War II and the Indochina Wars and soon restored after 1954, when the Geneva Accord was signed, causing division between North and South Vietnam In North Vietnam, The Công team of People's Army was established on 23 September 1954. The national football team gained notable achievements at some regional events, such as Ganefo (Indonesia, 1963) and Asian Ganefo (Cambodia, 1966). By late 1950s, the Southern football team became one of the four strongest teams in Asia, as they advanced into the final round of 1960 AFC Asian Cup together with South Korea, Israel and Republic of China. The team also won 10th Merdeka Cup in Malaysia, 1966. +

World Cup Fever in Vietnam

Reporting from Hanoi at the beginning of the World Cup in 2002—held for the first time in Asia, in Japan and South Korea— Huang Haimin and Thai Thanh Van wrote on Xinhuanet, "The football atmosphere is becoming hotter in Vietnam as the World Cup recently kicked-off... In beer pubs and coffee shops, at homes, fanatics of varying degrees have been going berserk (over the spills and thrills of the games). Vietnamese people are really crazy football fans. The first thing people talk every day is about football matches during the month the World Cup happens. The interesting matches over the last 13 days has had million of Vietnamese glued to football matches on television. [Source: Huang Haimin & Thai Thanh Van, Xinhuanet, June 12, 2002 ]

"In order to serve football fans, more television sets were installed at public gathering places. At Hanoi Train Station and Giang Vo International Exhibition Center, people can even watch football matches on 300-inch screen in air-conditioned comfort. Now, in streets, posters advertising music and comedy programmes were replaced by posters advertising sale promotion campaigns on the occasion of the World Cup. Electronic shop owners in Hanoi's Hai Ba Trung street said last month's revenue was up five-fold due to television sales. Vietnamese passion for football has a proven ability to cause the nation to grind to a halt. There is no precise figure on how many people in offices and factories have substituted work to watch the month-long contest or its cost to productivity and national economy.

"However, a recent survey said more than 80 percent of employees would this month choose football over work. "I have a whole life to make money but it will be the first and only time in my life that I can enjoy World Cup in daylight played in nearby countries, " said Vietnam's Industrial and Commercial Bank official Nguyen Trung Kien. A branch of a computer company in Hanoi has also allowed its employees to watch the matches on the condition they make up later. As the head of the branch pointed out, they could easily have left office under the variuos pretexts to catch the matches elsewhere. Hanoi's Vietnam Tourism branch director Luu Nhan Vinh said :" We always keep the company's benefit in our head. However, for this Worl Cup, my employees and l could not resist the seduction of the ball."

"Others, not quite so lucky, have seen it fit to smuggle small TV sets into the office in spite of knowing they would be found out. They remained unfazed, however, by the threat of punishment for, as a financial offical said, "nothing could stop the passion for football." The majority of the country's workforce face a tougher choice and potential financial penalties for work absences. Company directors are forced to become referees blowing the whistle on missing employees while mindful of a firm's net profits.

"And it is not just the men this time who have caught the fever but the women too. The enthusiasm and knowledge of many ladies has come as a huge surprise. Remote areas in the country have also not escaped the epidemic. Lo Van Inh lives in the country's mountainous province of Son La. He sold corn to buy a TV set to watch the matches, though his commune has not even been connected to the national power grid. People can still watch, he said, because of the mini hydro- electricity plant set up from public collections. It is easily to see that the football atmosphere is overwhelming everywhere in Vietnam from big cities to countrysides, from cafe, beer pubs to offices, and factories."

Describing a similar kind of atmosphere during Euro 2000, Reuters reported: "Millions in the communist country have watched every game avidly, many at pavement cafes, despite unsociable kickoff times as late as 1.45 a.m. local. In a cautionary note, the official media have reminded fans of one unfortunate supporter who had his prized television set stolen when he fell asleep by the roadside after a late game. And in Ho Chi Minh City in the south of the country, police confiscated 93 motorcycles and detained dozens of riders last weekend when rowdy fans went racing around town in the small hours. Football-related violence has become common in Vietnam in the past few years both on an off the pitch. A few months ago, Vietnam Television viewers saw fans enraged at a decision chasing a referee off the pitch during a local game. In late May, a court in Ho Chi Minh City jailed two traffic policemen who beat a man to death while assigned to keep order after an international with Indonesia. [Source: Reuters, June 15, 2000]

Brazilian Soccer Great Denilson Plays Half a Game Vietnam and Quit

One time Brazilian great Denilson played briefly in Vietnam. In 2009 he played half a game in the V-League and then quits his team due to injuries. Al-Jazeera reported: "After just 45 minutes of playtime with Vietnam's Hai Phong Cement FC, former Brazil international Denilson has shocked fans by quitting the team due to ongoing injuries, according to officials from the Vietnam Football Federation. [Source: Al-Jazeera, agencies, June 24, 2009 **]

"Denilson, who was once the world's most expensive football player, scored a goal from a free kick in the first minutes of his only V-League appearance, which helped Hai Phong Cement defeat former champions Hoang Anh Gia Lai 3-1 and snap a losing streak. He sat out the second half when the coach recognised that a right leg injury was holding him back, according to media outlet Vietnam News. The VFF said he had quit the team and was planning to leave the country. "One more time, fans were as shocked as his surprise appearance a few days ago," the VFF report said. **

"Denilson had missed two earlier games, angering expectant fans, before making his debut. The Brazilian came to the northern Vietnamese port city earlier this month after months of cajoling and coaxing. The transfer delighted the mid-table V-League team's fans, who welcomed the 31-year-old to practice in the port city with a motorcade of scooters, flags and flares. But his swift exit was sure to rankle Hai Phong supporters, who are known for their rowdy behaviour. The federation banned Hai Phong fans attending away games if they wear clothes bearing the team's symbols or name, according to reports. That decision came days after Hai Phong supporters clashed with paramilitary police in Hanoi when the team lost a match. Police used dogs and electric batons to disperse the crowd, while some fans fought back by hurling objects at the police lines. **

"Denilson was the subject of a world transfer record in 1998 when Real Betis paid more than $35 million to sign him. The VFF report said the Brazilian's contract only stipulated payment for matches he played. He was paid $12,000 for the match and a $5,000 bonus for the goal, according to reports." **

Four Killed in Soccer Celebrations After Vietnam Wins Southeast Asia Cup in 2008

In December 2008, Reuters reported: "At least four people were killed during a raucous night of partying in the streets of Vietnam after the national soccer team won its first international title, a newspaper reported. Three men died in traffic accidents Ho Chi Minh City and another was hit and killed by drag racers in the neighbouring province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau after Vietnam beat Thailand on aggregate to win the Southeast Asian championship, Thanh Nien Daily reported. [Source: Reuters, December 30, 2008 ]

"In Hanoi, hundreds of thousands of people jammed the city to celebrate the win, waving flags, singing songs, banging pots and pans, and zipping up and down streets on motorbikes. Other cities up and down the soccer-loving country saw similar scenes of jubilation. Hospitals in Vietnam's commercial hub, Ho Chi Minh City, had received 183 emergency cases of people injured in the partying up to Monday morning. Hospitals in Hanoi treated 63 cases of people injured in traffic accidents, including three skull fractures, the newspaper said."

Four killed, 150 hurt in Soccer Violence After Vietnam Beats Myanmar in 1999

In August 1999, four people were killed and 150 were hurt in street celebrations that marked Vietnam’s win over Myanmar in a Southeast Asia Games soccer match. Many were hurt in illegal motorscooter races. When police tried to break up the crowd they were pelted with stones. Reuters reported: "Four people were killed and 150 injured when street celebrations marking Vietnam's win over Myanmar in a regional soccer game turned ugly, official media reported. The Vietnam News daily said some of the injured were involved in illegal motorbike races in Ho Chi Minh City held to celebrate Vietnam's victory in a preliminary round of the Southeast Asian Games in Brunei. [Source: Reuters, August 6, 1999 \\]

"It said police were pelted with stones when they tried to disperse crowds that had gathered to watch the races, a common sight in Vietnam's cities when this soccer-crazed nation does well in international football matches. The races normally take place around city lakes or parks. Others who died or suffered injuries were bystanders hit by motorbikes or fans who were not involved in the races, but who had traffic accidents while taking part in the celebrations. \\

"Numerous people were hospitalised, many with head injuries, the daily reported. Officials were not available for comment, and it was unclear if any arrests were made. Police seized 151 motorbikes during the incidents, the Vietnam News said. There were no reported incidents in the capital Hanoi. Vietnam has done well in the Southeast Asian games soccer tournament so far and is expected to make the semi-finals following wins over Myanmar, Laos and a draw with Thailand during the preliminary round. \\

Eighteen Accused of Stabbing a Soccer Goalkeeper in Vietnam

In April 2003, Associated Press reported from Danang, "Eighteen people were accused of stabbing goalkeeper Do Ngoc The after a match his team won. The, of Danang's V-League team, was stabbed outside a disco hours after the match in which Danang unexpectedly beat Song Lam Nghe An 1-0. He reportedly was rushed to a nearby hospital in a coma and underwent surgery. [Source: Associated Press, April 29, 2003 \^/]

"The was alert and recovering, a doctor at Danang General Hospital said. Hours after the incident, police raided two cafes where they arrested the 18 people and seized swords, knives and ammunition and a hand grenade, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported. Before the stabbing, The was seen with some players of the visiting team, the newspaper said. Police in Danang are still investigating the incident, but there was speculation the upset caused many fans to lose bets on the game, leading to the attack." \^/

Vietnam Does Well in 2007 Asian Cup But Laments Their Size Disadvantage

In July 2007, Vietnam drew Qatar and beat United Arab Emirates—both rich, strong teams—in the Asian Cup, which Vietnam co-hosted with three othe nations. AFP reported: "Vietnam coach Alfred Riedl believes his Asian minnow side would have found their place in the international limelight if they were 10 centimeters (four inches) taller. "How can you make our players bigger?," the Austrian coach sighed when asked how the unfancied co-hosts will cope with Qatar following their 2-0 upset of the United Arab Emirates in their Asian Cup opener. "When you are unlucky, you get three heading goals and there's nothing you can do. We're too short and we know this," said Riedl. "That's the reason why we have problems in coming to the international level." [Source: AP, July 11, 2007]

The 57-year-old, in his third stint as Vietnam coach, cited his team's average height at around 170 centimeters (5ft 5ins) against 182 centimeters (5ft 9ins) for the other teams. "When we play against Arab teams, they always have five to eight players taller than us," he said. "This creates danger when there is a cross or a free kick from the side or a corner. "We make a lot of cross passes and try man-to-man situations in training. But I cannot make our players taller." Vietnam are competing in the Asian Cup for the first time in 47 years by virtue of being one of the four co-hosts and Riedl has set his initial sights on making his squad the number one team in Southeast Asia.

In May 2007, Reuters reported: "Football officials from Qatar are seeking to hire thousands of Vietnamese people to support their team during Asian Cup matches in Hanoi, a Vietnamese newspaper reported. Qatari delegates made enquiries about enlisting 10,000 local fans during a recent tour of Hanoi's My Dinh stadium, where they will play Group B matches with Vietnam, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Thanh Nien daily. [Source: Reuters. May 24, 2007]

The paper, sourcing army officials who manage the stadium, said the delegates told them they had already placed orders to buy outfits for the supporters. They were told to contact local student associations to recruit fans for the July 7-29 event, which Vietnam will co-host with Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.Despite the popularity of soccer in Qatar and efforts to lure big-name players, its domestic league is poorly attended and the national team has few travelling supporters.

Vietnam made it into the quarterfinals of 2007 Asia Cup. But after Vietnam lost to lowly Burma in December 2007 ended the team's hopes of winning a silver medal in the Southeast Asian Games, Riedl quit. Deutsche Presse Agentur reported: "Riedl said his time in Vietnam had seen "great victories and bitter defeats," Vietnam's Football newspaper reported. Riedl has resigned twice before since taking the reins of the Vietnamese club in 1998. He coached the team to three silver medals at earlier Southeast Asia (SEA) Games. Riedl, who played striker with Austria Vienna, FC Metz and Standard Liege, is widely popular in Vietnam. When he needed a kidney transplant early this year, scores of fans volunteered as donors. But the Austrian appeared to have worn out his welcome due to his team's long failure to satisfy Vietnamese fans' possibly unrealistic expectations of an international championship. [Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur - December 13, 2007 ]

"Resigning was the right thing for Riedl to do," said football fan Le Cong Hoa, citing the team's lackluster performance at the SEA Games. "The players' abilities may be poor, but the coach should be held responsible for that." "I think the Vietnam Football Federation is being too kind by allowing him to resign," agreed fellow fan Tran Van Viet. "He should have been fired. But VFF is also to blame. VFF is supposed to have a development strategy for the country's football, but this organization hasn't done anything."

Rival Thailand Beats Vietnam Repeatedly in Big Southeast Asian Games

Vietnam last won the Southeast Asian Games gold in 1959 in Bangkok, when the games were called the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games. They took silver in 2003 when Hanoi hosted the games. In recent years when Vietnam has reached the final stages of Southeast Asian soccer competitions they have been defeated by arch rivals Thailand.

In December 2005, Chanel News Asia reported: "Striker Teeratep Winothai scored a hat-trick to power Thailand to a 3-0 victory over Vietnam in the final of the men's football competition at the Southeast Asian Games. Winothai, also the hero in semi-final against Indonesia, found the net in the 43rd minute after following up a deflected header. His second came in the 76th minute, with the third coming sixth minutes later to secure Thailand's seventh consecutive Southeast Asian Games crown. Malaysia, meanwhile, took the bronze medal, defeating Indonesia 1-0. Thai coach Chanvit Phalajivin praised Vietnam but said Thailand were the stronger outfit on the day. "Our team was better today than Vietnam," he said. Vietnam's Austrian coach Alfred Riedl said Thailand's strikers simply overwhelmed the defense. "There was no weak point for them. We were under pressure from them for 90 minutes. They are tough and they deserve to win," he said. "We had no chance to score and they played top-level and they have strong strikers." [Source: Chanel News Asia - December 5, 2005]

Vietnam came close to defeating Thailand in the 2003 Southeast Asia Games final in Hanoi but a golden goal in overtime clinche victory for Thailand and silenced the home crowd. The Bangkok Post reported: "Nataporn Phanrit scored in the sixth minute of extra time yesterday as Thailand beat off a fierce challenge from Vietnam to win 2-1 and claim its sixth straight SEA Games soccer title. It was a heartbreaking finish for Vietnam, which tied the score in the first minute of injury time, less than a minute after Le Quoc Vuong was sent off for his second yellow card. [Source: The Bangkok Post, December 13, 2003 +/]

"Both teams had golden goal chances before Nataporn was set up by Datsakorn Thonglao inside the box and drilled a drive past goalkeeper Nguyen The Anh, who dropped on the field in tears as the boisterous sellout crowd of 40,000 at My Dinh stadium fell silent. Scoring chances were few in the first half, with both defenses challenging nearly every pass and limiting most of the hard-fought action to midfield. But with crisper passes, the Thais had the best of possession, and their persistence finally paid off in the 32nd minute. Piyawat Thongmaen sent a pass in from the left side. It bounced through the legs of Vietnam's Le Duc Tuan, leaving the tournament's leading scorer, Sarayuth Chaikumdee, with only Anh to beat. Sarayuth had no trouble scoring his ninth goal in five matches to put Thailand ahead 1-0. Vietnam became more aggressive, but several ill-advised shots and passes had its fans groaning. The match appeared to be over when Vuong was sent off with time running out. But Phan Van Tai Em headed a pass to Pham Van Quyen right in front of the box and his shot slipped past Thai goalie Kosin Hatairatanasakul. The crowd exploded in celebration, but it turned out to be short-lived. When Nataporn's shot found the net, the home fans watched dazed as the Thai players piled on top of each other." +/

In 1999, Thailand beat Vietnam again in the Southeast Asia Games soccer final. Reuters reported: "Thailand beat Vietnam 2-0 on Saturday to win the Southeast Asian Games soccer title for the fourth successive time. Thawatchai Ongtrakul opened the scoring in the 39th minute when he struck a vicious right-foot drive from the edge of the box past goalkeeper Tran Minh Quang. Dusit Charlesman sealed the win with another long-range effort in the 85th minute. "The 2-0 scoreline wasn't important. It was the gold medal that really mattered,'' Thailand manager Virach Chaupanich said. "Winning it for a fourth time is really something special.'' [Source: Reuters, August 14, 1999]

Women’s Soccer in Vietnam

The first woman football team in Vietnam appeared in Ca'n Tho in 1932, called Cái Vo'n. Several years later, another team called "Rach Giá" was founded. In 1933, Cái Vo'n had a match with men's Paul Bert team at Mayer Stadium, and the two-all draw became historic in Vietnamese football history. [Source: Wikipedia]

In 2001, Vietnam’s national women's soccer team won a gold medal at the South East Asian Games. Vo Hoang wrote in Nhân Dân, "It is wonderful that the Vietnamese national women's football team overtook the final threshold to win a set of gold medals of the 21st South East Asian (SEA) Games, for which we have been waiting for quite a long time. This has marked a great progress of Vietnam women's football. Starting from a team with great potential, the team has won the regional championship. The position was confirmed by four wins in a row with sixteen goals (with only one goal against from the penalty spot) at the 21st SEA games. [Source: Vo Hoang, Nhân Dân, September 15, 2001 ==]

"The victory is a worthy recognition of an impressive change of women's football. The players have built up precious experience from the annual national championships so as to be able to compete in the regional tournament. The image of the Vietnamese women's football is a combination of each individual's skill, undaunted competing spirit and the strength of unity. Seven goals scored by striker Luu Ngoc Mai received great contributions from the industriousness of Kim Chi, Hien Luong and Thuy Nga and the calmness and alertness of Mai Lan, Thanh Mai and Kim Hong. Apart from the efforts made by all the players, the training board, led by British coach Darby, has created a united strength that turned into the miraculous victory. ==

"The women's football team dominated virtually all the matches by keeping closer together with short and exact passes and crosses during the matches. The team absolutely deserves the championship title. They took over the championship from defending champions Thailand, which the Vietnamese national men's football team has been dreaming of. It was the victory of talent, unity of spirit, determination and modesty that is typical of Vietnamese womanhood. We would like to congratulate skipper Bui Thi Hien Luong, who was the girl to open and close the final glorious match with two spectacular goals. We would like to congratulate and thank the whole team for bringing the set of gold medals to the fatherland and the happiness of victory to Vietnamese fans. We believe that the country and a great majority of Vietnamese fans will meet their glorious players with great joy. ==

Soccer Gambling in Vietnam

In the mid 2000s, Vietnam's soccer betting market was estimated to be worth about $1 billion a year. Authorities uncovered 348 betting cases involving 1,554 people during the World Cup in Germany in 2006, confiscating $300,000, Liberated Saigon newspaper quoted a police report as saying. [Source: Associated Press - September 14, 2006]

Bribery and other irregularities involving soccer and gambling are a problem in Vietnam. Bookmakers, reportedly, routinely payoff players and fix club matches. The problem has gotten so out of hand that the Vietnamese soccer federation refused to validate a game between Hanoi and Haiphong because of allegations it was fixed.

In 2000, Reuters reported from Hanoi: "Soccer and gambling-mad Vietnamese hooked on Euro 2000 have lost more than bets when their favorite teams fail to deliver. Authorities associate football with numerous social ills, not least gambling, which is virtually a national pastime even though it is illegal. Local media reports said many football fans in Ho Chi Minh City have skirted this inconvenience during Euro 2000 by placing bets via the Internet. Betting has been popular even among students with little money to lose. They have instead wagered a cup of breakfast coffee or a bowl of noodles, media reports said. A lucky few could win a lot, however. Coca-Cola Vietnam is offering three footballs each made with a kg (2.2 lb) of gold to winners of a Euro 2000 promotional contest and is expecting around 150,000 entries. "We've had literally sacks and sacks so far," said external affairs manager Robin Wilson. "It really shows the mood of enthusiasm for Euro 2000." [Source: Reuters, June 15, 2000]

AFP reported: "Despite being outlawed, football gambling is widespread in Vietnam. Low pay and poor motivation often makes police an easy target for bribes from underground bookmakers to look the other way. Most major syndicates bet on foreign matches, but the domestic V-League has also been marred by allegations of corruption and match-fixing since its debut 2000-2001 season. Many fans place bets online.[Source: AFP]

"Gambling is no longer completely outlawed in Vietnam as it was in the 1970s and 1980s when the communist authorities regarded it as an unacceptable capitalist pursuit. However, it remains tightly restricted, creating a lucrative industry for the country's criminal underworld. Vietnamese law only allows limited betting on the state-run lottery and at the old colonial racecourse in Ho Chi Minh City, which was resurrected in the early 1990s. Punters are also allowed to have a flutter at a new greyhound stadium in the southern coastal resort of Vung Tau. [Source: Agence France Presse, October 23, 2002]

Crackdowns on Football Gambling in Vietnam

In October 2002, AFP reported:"Police in football-mad Vietnam said Wednesday they have arrested three men running an illegal gambling syndicate taking bets on top-flight European matches. The trio were picked up in Hanoi after a lengthy surveillance operation. The 24-year-old ringleader, Le Viet Anh, was an unemployed university graduate. Two of his partners were brothers, the interior ministry's Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Police) newspaper said. Their biggest client, Nguyen Khanh Tung, was also arrested. The 23-year-old son of a wealthy state official, Tung often gambled up to 30 million dong (2,000 dollars) on a single day, it said. [Source: Agence France Presse, October 23, 2002 :::]

The syndicate took bets via their mobile phones, or in person at the city's dozens of sports cafes, on the English Premier League, Italy's Serie A, the Spanish Primera Liga and the European Champions League. Police said each day they would take between 35 and 55 million dong (2,300-3,700 dollars) in bets from punters. All four men have reportedly confessed to their crimes. In March, police were given cash rewards for arresting 140 football gamblers in Ho Chi Minh City, including 53 people in a raid on a sports restaurant in the Chinatown district of Cholon. :::

In October 2003, AFP reported: " Ninety-two people were arrested in Vietnam after being caught illegally gambling on the Italian Serie A in a sting operation by undercover officers, police said. The arrests were made at a cafe in Ho Chi Minh City during a live broadcast of AC Milan’s 3-0 win over Sampdoria in the Serie A. Among the arrested were convicted gambler Pham Minh Tam, 39, who was handed a three-year prison term in June during a massive corruption trial of Ho Chi Minh City mafia boss Nam Cam. The owners of the Hoang Yen coffee bar, a married couple, were also arrested in Sunday’s raid on the District 10 cafe, city police said, adding that undercover officers had used mobile phone cameras to gather evidence. Nearly US$7,700 and US$6,000 in cash, 52 mobile phones and five television sets were confiscated from those arrested. [Source: Agence France Presse, October 29, 2003

In 2006, AFP reported: "Vietnamese police have raided 30 illegal football betting rings during the World Cup and arrested about 100 people, a report in the state-controlled media said. Police involved in the crackdown in southern Ho Chi Minh City said they had seized funds worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Thanh Nien (Youth Daily) newspaper said in its online edition. Among the syndicates were three rings with overseas links that ran gambling networks on the Internet with bets worth an estimated 500,000 dollars, police were quoted as saying. The report said police had arrested the three ring leaders, identified as Nguyen Thi Duyen, 52, Truong Minh Hai, 49, and Nguyen Hung Binh, 36. [Source: Agence France Presse, June 30, 2006]

In February 2008, AFP reported: :A Vietnamese court has jailed members of an illegal online betting ring for up to 15 years for arranging bets on European football matches to a value of 10 million dollars, a court official said. Its ringleader, a Vietnamese-born Canadian called Ngo Tien Dung, received the heaviest sentence while his chief accomplice was jailed for 10 years, an official from the Hanoi People's Court said. The court heard they organized bets on a number of European championships between December 2005 and February 2006, and also forged links with betting syndicates in Cambodia, Hong Kong and Macau. Another 11 members of the network were given sentences ranging from six years in jail to two years suspended following their three-day trial. According to reports here, Dung, 49, had a criminal record dating back to the 1980s. He left for Canada, obtained Canadian nationality in 2002 and returned to Vietnam two years later. [Source: Agence France Presse, February 27, 2008]

Soccer Officials and Referees Arrested for Match-Fixing in Vietnam

In the mid 2000s, dozens of referees, coaches, players and officials were arrested on charges of match-fixing. In January 2006, China’s People’s Daily reported: "In addition to match-fixing cases with the deep involvement of bookies, the police have recently uncovered many cases, in which local clubs bribed referees and their opponents so that they got promoted, won championships, or did not have to be relegated in national tournaments. Since August 2005, local police have uncovered some 50 local corrupt referees, as well as managing directors and coaches of some clubs. To date, 19 out of 60 local referees and teams' officials who have allegedly involved in match-fixing over the past two years have been prosecuted. [Source: People’s Daily, January 10, 2006]

In December 2006, the People’s Daily reported: Prosecutors in Vietnam have issued their indictments in two major soccer match-fixing scandals. Two trials have been recommended for a total of 22 people in cases that have badly shaken the sport in the country. The first case, the biggest to hit Vietnamese soccer, concerns a match fixing scandal involving eight players in the national under-23 team. They are accused of taking bribes from a betting syndicate to fix the scores of a game against Myanmar during the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines, in 2005. In the second case, 14 people including some referees and coaches are accused of bribery during the 2004-2005 professional V-League championship. Experts and police have estimated that more than a billion dollars was illegally staked on fixed matches in the country, with 200 million transferred to foreign countries and regions, mainly Hong Kong of China, Macao of China and Singapore. [Source: People’s Daily, December 26, 2006]

In 2007, Associated Press reported: "Seven soccer referees and two sports officials were found guilty of fixing Vietnamese football matches and four were sentenced to up to seven years in prison, a court official said. The defendants were convicted of "giving, accepting and brokering bribes" worth the equivalent of US$8,440 (€6,200), said presiding judge Le Thi Bao Hang of Hanoi People's Court. The money was paid to the referees by two Vietnamese football clubs — Dong A Thep Pomina and Ton Hoa Sen Can Tho — to avoid relegation to a lower league, Hang said. Four referees were jailed for between four and seven years, while three other referees and two sports officials received suspended sentences, Hang said. The matches took place during the 2005 season. "The punishments serve as a good lesson for referees and sports officials," she said. "It will help to build up the confidence of millions of Vietnamese football fans." Vietnamese soccer has seen a string of high-profile cases in connection with bribery and gambling in recent years.[Source: The Associated Press, July 2, 2007 -]

In January 2007, seven players of Vietnam's national soccer team were found guilty of deliberately holding down the score in a game against Myanmar in exchange for payments from a gambling ring during the 2005 Southeast Asian Games, held in the Philippines. Matt Steinglass wrote in The Nation: The court in Ho Chi Minh City handed down its verdicts Friday afternoon. All seven players, as well as a former soccer player who helped organize the plot, were found guilty of match fixing during a game against Burma in December 2005.

Lawyer Pham Liem Chinh represented the most famous of the defendants, Vietnam's top football star Van Quyen. Chinh says the ringleader of the point-shaving scheme, Le Quoc Vuong, received the harshest sentence, of six years in prison. Truong Tan Hai, the ex-player who served as a liaison to gambling kingpins, received two years. Van Quyen and the other six players received two-year suspended sentences, during which they will be banned from playing soccer.

The court ruled that while playing against much weaker Burma during the 2005 Southeast Asia Games in Manila, the players had deliberately held back to keep Vietnam's margin of victory to just one goal. In return, they had been promised a total of $15,000 by the leader of an organized gambling ring. Gambling on soccer is widespread in Vietnam, but this is the first time members of the national team have been caught participating in it. Sentence for “organized gambling” three years to seven years.

Lawyer Chinh said he was relatively satisfied with the verdict. Counting time served, Chinh says, Van Quyen's suspended sentence will be up at the end of 2007, when he could return to playing soccer. An official at the Vietnamese Football Federation confirmed that if the players completed their sentences and showed remorse, they could be allowed to play again.

Soccer Coaches and Players Arrested for Match-Fixing in Vietnam

In December 2005, the BBC reported: "Two members of Vietnam's national football team have been arrested for match-fixing during the South East Asian Games in Manila. Popular striker Pham Van Quyen and mid-fielder Le Quoc Vuong were detained near Hanoi late on Tuesday. The bribery and gambling has become so common that when told about the latest arrests, Sports Minister Nguyen Danh Thai said he was not surprised. "I was not shocked by the news that some players fixed matches," he was quoted as telling the state newspaper Thanh Nien. [Source: BBC, December 21, 2005 ^^]

The two footballers were arrested for "indulging in betting on games and organizing betting," according to Vietnam Football Federation President Nguyen Trong Hy. "If it is true that my son has participated in game-fixing, I will be very sad and disappointed," Ho Thi Niem, Van Quyen's mother, told the BBC Vietnamese service. "I still don't believe that my son has done anything wrong, but I don't know. The investigation authorities haven't told me anything. I'm very saddened by the whole affair." At least five members of Vietnam's team are under suspicion for fixing matches during the South East Asian Games. Matches with Burma and Malaysia are among those being investigated.[Source: BBC, December 21, 2005 ^^]

In January 2006, China’s People’s Daily reported: "Vietnam' Investigation Agency prosecuted a former head coach and a former player of a local soccer club for rigging matches at the 2000-2001 national tournament, local newspaper Labor reported. Under the decision of the agency under the Ministry of Public Security on Monday, the former coach of the Pjico Song Lam Nghe An club, Nguyen Huu Thang, and the former player, Nguyen Phi Hung, were prosecuted for the charge of organizing gambling. Thang, who was the club's coach assistant at the 2000-2001 national tournament and recently relieved from the head coach post by the club, confessed that he gave cash to two other local teams so that his club could win the tournament's championship easily. Hung, a club member at that time, bribed another team. [Source: People’s Daily, January 10, 2006 ]

"In 2004, Hung was suspended from playing for five years because he was charged with organizing playing cards. Any form of gambling, except those designated for only foreigners and overseas Vietnamese, is illegal in Vietnam. Besides involvement in their club's match-fixing scandal, Thang and Hung allegedly asked several members of the national U-23 soccer team to fix a qualification match against Myanmar at the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in November 2005 in the Philippines. Regarding the match-fixing case at the regional event, seven members of the national U-23 soccer team have been prosecuted for either gambling or organizing gambling, of them four have been detained."

Football Betting Legalized in Vietnam

In August 2013, The National Assembly Standing Committee approved a government decree on betting business for horse racing, dog racing and international football, with a minimum bet of VND10,000 and a maximum bet of VND1 million ($50) per day. VietNamNet Bridge reported: Concerning the minimum and maximum bets - VND10,000 ($0.5) and VND1 million per day, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Justice Committee Nguyen Van Hien said these figures are unreasonable because VND10,000 is just enough to buy a bundle of water spinach. He suggested to increase the minimum level to VND50,0000 and the maxima number to VND5 million per day, adding that these levels are still low. "VND5 million ($250) is big for the poor but for the rich perhaps they do not bet at that amount. If the maximum is fixed at that amount, they may illegally bet," he said. [Source: Cam Quyen, VietNamNet Bridge, August 15, 2013 **]

"The goal that the Ministry of Finance set the minimum and maximum is to restrict the participation of the poor, however, Ms. Truong Thi Mai, Chair of the National Assembly’s Committee for Social Affairs said that this level can only control the rich, not the poor. "In fact, I know that many students borrowed money from usurers to bet," Mai said. National Assembly Vice Chairman Tong Thi Phong said the bet amount should be prescribed from time to time to fit the fact. Chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee for Ethnic Minorities Ksor Phuoc noted money laundering in this business. **

"The draft decree also stipulated that initially a state-owned company will run the international football bet business, with a minimum capital of VND500 billion ($25 million). Hien noted that this is contrary to the Enterprise Law’s anti-monopoly provisions. According to the Ministry of Finance, the legitimacy of the betting business is to meet the entertainment needs of a segment of the population and to attract tourists, contributing to narrow illegal gambling and betting activities, limiting the negative impacts and having more revenue to invest in social welfare programs. **

"However, the Chairman of the National Assembly’s Defense and Security Committee – Mr. Nguyen Kim Khoa - said that the Government must clarify the goals. "The goal is to attract investment (like casinos), or what? In my opinion, the biggest goal of this task is to create the legal playing field and prevent social evils, particularly in football betting. As such, this decree aims to social goals rather than the budget target. The Government should have a clear view to achieve these goals," he said. Mai added that according to the Ministry of Finance’s report, the decree will bring about only positive influences, not negative ones. "I’m afraid that the society does not think so," she said. The Finance Ministry said that if the decree is passed, it will attract investment, create jobs for many people. In 2010, horse racing operations brought about VND21.6 billion (over $1 million) to the budget and dog racing activities with VND2.3 billion. **

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

Last updated May 2014

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