Tuesday, 31/01/2023 09:30

The Local Game: Three bold predictions for the 2023 V.League season


Hà Nội Police FC have made waves with their signings ahead of the new season. — Photo of Hà Nội Police FC

Peter Cowan

I hope you didn’t spend all your lì xì (lucky money) already, because it’s almost time to start buying tickets for the return of the V.League.

Before the start of V.League 1 play this Friday evening, it’s time for me to look foolish with a few bold predictions for the season to come.

Hà Nội Police FC to win the title

Countries worldwide have sports clubs whose origins come from institutions like the police, fire brigade, army, navy and others, so there’s nothing that out of the ordinary about seeing one make it to the top tier.

What’s unique about Hà Nội Police FC is how they have managed to scoop up some of the league’s best players.

National team star Phan Văn Đức arrived from Sông Lam Nghệ An a mere 18 months after signing a monster three-year deal with his hometown club.

Đoàn Văn Hậu, most famous for a loan spell in the Netherlands for SC Heerenveen in 2020, was prised away from Hà Nội FC shortly after the end of their title celebrations.

I could go on and list at least half a dozen more household names who recently arrived, but the point is Hà Nội Police FC have added a whole lot of star power in a short time.

Whoever is in charge of their recruitment has likely earned a promotion as I reckon they could cruise to league glory. I also suspect the ball might bounce their way a few times in the title race and you do need a bit of luck.

Hoàng Anh Gia Lai to be relegated

How the mighty have fallen.

It wasn’t long ago that Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) were playing the best football in the country and atop the league.

Now though, their best players have pretty much all left for pastures new at home and abroad, with the exception of the chocolate-ankled Nguyễn Tuấn Anh.

On top of that there’s the controversy with their sponsor Carabao, the energy drinks brand most famous for sponsoring England’s League Cup.

The Việt Nam Professional Football Joint Stock Company (VPF) have told HAGL they can’t promote Caraboa because the league’s main sponsor is a competing energy drinks brand. I’ll let you make up your own mind on the rationality of that decision.

A severely depleted playing squad and a row with the VPF before a ball has been kicked don’t auger well.

A Vietnamese national to be top scorer

I make this prediction every year – surely it has to hit eventually?

In all honesty, it looks less likely this year as two of the country’s top forwards, Nguyễn Công Phượng and Nguyễn Văn Toàn, have moved abroad, but it’s spring, and hope springs eternal.

Becamex Bình Dương forward Nguyễn Tiến Linh is the man most likely to make me look like I know what I’m talking about, while Hà Nội FC’s Phạm Tuấn Hải has an outside shot. — VNS

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