Despite an exciting domestic season, 2012 ended on a down note for Vietnam following an exodus of club owners combined with the country's poor performance at the AFF Suzuki CupSPECIAL
By Erick Bui
2012 was a a exciting and yet in some ways unfruitful year for Vietnam, from SHB Da Nang's dramatic victory in the V-League to the short spell of Phan Thanh Hung with the national team and Vietnam’s lacklustre performance at 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup.
In particular, the last two months of the year have given us a glimpse of many promised changes for both domestic competitions and national team.
On the whole, 2012 was a forgettable year for Vietnam's men's national team. After German tactician Falko Goetz failed at the last SEA Games, the Vietnam Football Federation replaced him with Ha Noi T&T coach Phan Thanh Hung, who became the side's first local coach in 17 years.
But it was a short journey for the 52-year-old, as his highly-anticipated Vietnam team exited AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 without recording a win in the group stage. With doubts cast over the lack of unity in the locker room, Phan Thanh Hung stepped down from his position in December and the VFF promised a complete revamp. If the federation is serious about implimenting these changes, some familar players may never be able to wear the national team jersey again.
In contrast, the women's national team enjoyed a memorable moment when they lifted the AFF Women’s Championship trophy for a second time. Despite not garnering as much attention as their male colleagues, they proved to be more than capable of bringing pride to Vietnam with another successful year.
|DOMESTIC LEAGUES AND CUPS
The 2012 V-League saw significant changes in its managing system. After the VFF agreed to take an behind-the-scenes role, this season's domestic competitions were run by VPF, a company founded by the clubs themselves.
While the domestic game was still troubled by familiar problems, it was an exciting season as the V-League saw a three-horse race for the title with the winners undecided until the very last round. SHB Da Nang were crowned as league champions while Sai Gon Xuan Thanh basked in the glory of the Vietnamese Cup, but the mass withdrawal of several clubs from the league stole headlines.
Financial trouble has the country's domestic league into critical period, but major changes expected in the next season will hopefully have a positive impact on Vietnamese football.
|PLAYER OF THE YEAR | Kelsey Alves, Sai Gon Xuan Thanh
In a year without any really outstanding names, naturalized striker Kesley Alves stood out as the country's most impressive player. Finishing the season with 15 goals, the Brazilian-born marksman helped newly-promoted Sai Gon Xuan Thanh win the national cup in addition to coming up just short in the league when they ended the final round in third place.
Considered one of the best strikers to have plied his trade in the V-League, Kesley is a name that every Vietnamese side desires. In May, he was honoured with Vietnamese Bronze Ball Award, following a competition in which the winner hardly stood out. Kesley has unfortunately been ignored by the national team, despite his decisive play potentially being the key to Vietnam's goal-scoring problems.
|MOMENT OF THE YEAR | Disappointing AFFSC campaign spurs talk of change
When the Vietnam national team were disappointingly eliminated in 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup group stage with only a single point after three games, it marked the end of a sad year for Vietnamese football. After a Kyi Lin penalty kick allowed Myanmar to steal a point in the opening match, Vietnam fell 1-0 to Philippines and 3-1 to Thailand to seal their exit. Anticipated striker Le Cong Vinh failed to score in either of his two appearances and was left to watch Thailand's triumph from the bench.
It was the 2008 champions' worst result in the tournament since its 1996 founding, and combined with the financial troubles of the V-League marked what could be the lowest point to date for the country's grassroots game.
|WISHES FOR VIETNAMESE FOOTBALL IN 2013
Meanwhile, the reformed V-League will play with 12 clubs, including newly-promoted Dong Nai FC. While the league has a long way to go before they reach the level of other domestic competitions in the region, the endurance of the program despite financial difficulties is a sign that football in Vietnam has the popularity - and the strength - to persevere.
Check out other countries in the countdown: Hong Kong