A Guide To Football In Laos

Football may not be the national sport of Laos, but it is the most prevalent in the country, with most of the population preferring to play and watch it more than any other sport in the country. In a country where traditional sports like Sepak Takraw have ruled for many years, football has been gaining popularity, particularly in urban areas and among youngsters. 

This article comprises a brief insight into the evolution of football in Laos and its current status in the country. 

History of Football in Laos

Football has been played in Laos since the region was a French Colony. French expatriates residing in the country had introduced the locals to the sport. As soon as the country became independent, Laos established its national football association, the Lao Football Federation (LFF), in 1951, and a year later, it became affiliated with FIFA. While the association became a member of the AFC in 1958, it was not a member of the AFF until 1996. 

Although the country had gained independence, it could not get rid of political turmoil and unrest for a long time, and this had an impact on the socio-economic affairs of the country, including sports. The team could not qualify for the FIFA World Cup, Asian Games, or the Asian Cup, and its participation was restricted to regional events like the AFF Suzuki Cup and the Southeast Asian Games.

In recent years, Laos has been on the road to social and economic recovery after prolonged economic and political instability, and this has led to other factions of the country benefiting from the improved stability. As the country’s residents get the opportunity to focus on and indulge in other activities, football’s popularity has consequently increased. 

Laos National Football Team

The Laos national football team is presently ranked 187th in the FIFA ranks. The team has been playing actively since the 1950s, but the political and economic instability in the 1950s till the 1990s marred the team’s performance rendering it unable to gain any international recognition. 

The team first made an appearance in the Southeast Asian Games in 1995 and afterward appeared in the Tiger Cup, now known as the ASEAN Football Championship. The team beat the Philippines and Brunei despite having a lack of experience at the regional level. Two years later, the national football team appeared in the Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta and defeated Malaysia, a much stronger side.

In the early 2000s, the team continued to participate in the qualifying rounds of the World Cup and the Asian Cup. In 2006 and 2014, the national team managed to reach the second round of the World Cup qualifiers but was unable to succeed. However, despite its inability to qualify, the team made a mark internationally by beating much stronger teams like Malaysia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Cambodia. The team qualified to appear in the Challenge Cup in 2014, its first participation in a continental tournament. 

In recent years, match-fixing scandals cast a shadow over the national team, the LFF, and a domestic club, bringing them under scrutiny in 2017. As a result, many competent and renowned players and LFF officials were banned.

Domestic football in Laos

Domestic football competitions are very active in Laos. More than 60 football clubs are currently competing in the country at various levels. Although most of the top teams are from public service companies and government ministries, football is still amateur at the domestic level in Laos. 

The Lao Premier League, or the Lao League 1, is Laos’s highest professional football division. The league was established in 1990. The Lao Football Federation manages and oversees the affairs of the Lao League 1. Presently, the league has seven clubs, with the Lao Army FC as the most successful team being eight times champion of the league. 

The top domestic football competition in Laos is the LFF Lao Ford Cup. The team winning the tournament qualifies to play in the AFC Cup and the ASEAN Club Championship. The current champions of the LFF Lao Ford Cup are the Young Elephants FC, who won their first title in 2022. 

A regular season of the Lao Premier League runs from February to September. Each team plays other teams three times. Teams are ranked according to points scored through the season, followed by goal difference, total goal score, and the teams’ head-to-head encounter record. The Lao League 1 follows a promotion and demotion system with the Lao League, which was formed in 2020. The league’s current winner is the Lao Army FC, who won the title in 2021. 


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