Southeast Asia Vietnam

2021 V.League Season Offically Scrapped

Shocking news emerged from Vietnam in the past few days, with the Vietnam Football Federation announcing that after a virtual vote with all clubs within the Vietnamese football pyramid, it has been decided that the 2021 V.League season will be canceled due to the worsening COVID-19 situation within the country.

The league has been suspended since May 7th after several players from bottom club Song Lam Nghe An had came into indirect contact with a woman who had been tested positive with COVID-19. While there were plans to resume the league in July, the spread of the highly-infectious Delta variant within Vietnamese soil forced the league’s suspension to be extended further.

A plan was mulled by league operators Vietnam Professional Football Joint Stock Company (VPF) to extend the league calendar to 2022 and restart proceedings on February of next year, however the idea was met by fierce protests from the clubs, which could see them go bankrupt if the plan goes through due to the pandemic already placing a huge strain on their finances.

Clubs were initially wary of canceling the season due to the financial impact that it could bring, however ultimately they felt that they had no other options left as cases surges on by each passing day.

The VFF held a vote on whether the 2021 season should continue or should it be canceled due to the ongoing pandemic. Many of the clubs participating in the vote voiced their approval on the 2021 season being canceled, among them Hoang Anh Gia Lai, who were leading the V.League 1 table this season prior to it’s suspension, and defending champions Viettel FC, who were second when the season was suspended.

Cancellation means that all the results of this year’s V.League 1, V.League 2, and the Vietnamese National Cup won’t be counted and are declared null and void.

The recipients of Vietnam’s three AFC club competition tickets – a ticket to the AFC Champions League group stages and two tickets to the AFC Cup group stages – were not touched upon by either the VFF or the VPF, however judging by a similar case happening in the Liga 1 Indonesia last year, the tickets will most likely be received by the top three teams in the V.League 1 at the time of cancellation – leaders HAGL, 2nd placed Viettel, and 3rd placed Than Quang Ninh.

Almost immediately the season’s cancellation caused a mass exodus out of the league.

Serbian defender Damir Memovic, who had faithfully served HAGL since 2020, was released from his contract, while the Mountain Men’s South Korean defender Kim Dong-su is set to return to his homeland for his military service. Also released from his HAGL contract was Nigerian-born Vietnamese attacker Nguyen Trung Dai Duong.

Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh had also ended the contracts of their foreign contingent – Brazilian striker Rodrigo Dias, Brazilian defender Wesley, and Ivorian attacker Oussou Konan, while SLNA has released Nigerian striker Peter Samuel from his contract.

Ho Chi Minh City FC are also another side enduring an upheaval following the season’s cancellation, as Junior Barros and Patrick Leonardo had their contracts terminated by the club, while Lee Nguyen is unlikely to represent the Red Battleship again in the near future after returning to the United States. Head coach Alexandre Polking is also set to exit the club, with a return to the Thai League being on the cards.

But no other club has been severely affected by the season’s cancellation like Quang Ninh.

Having impressed throughout the curtailed 2021 season despite being plagued by unpaid wages, the Hero Miner’s deteriorating finances has finally caught up with them as players threaten to report the club to the VFF, the AFC, and even FIFA if they don’t receive their wages for August.

Quang Ninh have already owed their players their bonuses for 2019, 2020, and the first half of 2021, as well as having yet to pay their players four months worth of salaries.

Club president Pham Thanh Hung has admitted that he owed around $3million worth of unpaid wages to his players and that the club’s main sponsor Vinacomin has stopped their annual funding for the past two years.

Thanh Hung is looking to return the club to the Quang Ninh local government, however should the government’s People’s Committee are unable to take Quang Ninh in or find a new investor for the club, Thanh Hung would be force to either suspend or dissolve the Hero Miner altogether.

A local enterprise had voiced their interest in taking Quang Ninh off Thanh Hung’s hands, however they refused to help in sorting out the club’s unpaid wages, thus condemning Quang Ninh to an uncertain fate.