For a country that has been playing football for so long, it comes as no surprise that the sport happens to be the most popular throughout Vietnam. Like any other part of the world, the Vietnamese love to play and watch football and have embraced it since it was introduced in the country in the 19th century.
So, if you are interested in learning more about football in Vietnam, this article entails a comprehensive description of the advent of football in the country, its evolution over time, and the sport’s current status in the country.
History of football in Vietnam
It was the French who introduced football in Vietnam in 1896.
Initially, it was introduced in Cochin-china, and from there, it spread to other parts of Vietnam in the north and south regions. It came to the northern region around 1906. Soon after the introduction of football in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, the locals warmed up to the sport, and soon a club was formed; the Saigon Sports Circle (Cercle Sportif Saigonnais).
In 1905 a Vietnamese team comprising locals and French played a friendly game against a British football team. This match is recorded as Vietnam’s first international soccer match. A French Sports Athletic Society member E. Breton introduced formal football rules in Vietnam in 1906. He was also a member of the Saigon Sports Circle and formed various other football clubs around that time, followed by the organisation of various tournaments, with the Saigon Sports Circle as the most successful.
Soon after, the sport’s popularity spread throughout the country, and locals formed their teams. The first two teams, Gia Dinh Sport and Blue Star, later merged into one team, which went on to defeat all other teams around, including the Sports Circle. While more teams formed around the region, new facilities were also built, including Renault, now known as Thong Nhat Stadium, Citadelle, and Mayer, among others.
Around 1920, some local leaders and fans established the Vietnamese Department of Football. The department had its independent board and playing field. Teams from the French and Vietnamese departments, Ngoi Sao Gia Dịnh and Cercle Sportif Saigonnais, played against each other in local tournaments like the Cochin-china Championship. A conflict between two teams at the contest in 1925 led to the championship being delayed for seven years, and it was again arranged in 1932. During that time, Ngoi Sao Gia Dịnh won many local tournaments.
Up until 1932, only men were playing football professionally. However, that changed in 1932 when the first women’s team was formed. The first team was Cai Von, and it played a historic match against a men’s team at Mayer Stadium, which ended in a draw.
Formation of V. League
Football was not actively played in the country during the Second World War and the Indochina conflicts, after which Vietnam was divided in two. The sport was revived around 1954 when North Vietnam formed its national team, and regional events were also held. The team also took part in events in Indonesia and Cambodia. The North Vietnam V. League was also formed around that time.
Meanwhile, South Vietnam had its own national V. League. Its national team had become one of the strongest four teams in the continent. The team participated in the AFC Asian Cup in 1960 and reached the finals. It also won the Malaysian Merdeka Cup in 1966. Vietnam was unified in 1976, and the North and South teams played a match against each other.
The current V. League ( V.League 1) was established in 1980 as the A1 league in the then Vietnam Soviet Union. It is the top professional football league in Vietnam and comprises 14 clubs. The club’s season runs from March to September, and the 14 clubs play against each other. The 2022 season had 156 matches. While the season’s winner qualifies for the AFC Champions League, the lowest performing team is demoted to V. League 2.
Establishment of the Vietnam Football federation
The Vietnam Football Federation was formed in North Vietnam in 1960 as the governing body of football. The organisation was intended to oversee the national teams and leagues. A similar body was formed in the south as well. It was declared in unified Vietnam as the governing body after the economic reforms of 1989.
Presently, it is the governing body of football in Vietnam and is a member of FIFA, AFF (Asian Football Federation), and AFC (Asian Football Confederation).
Vietnam’s international Football Efforts
While the north and south factions had been participating in international events independently, Vietnam’s participation in international football resumed in 1991 as it competed in the Southeast Asian Games in 1991. The sport’s initial growth rate was slow due to many external factors. However, in 2007, Vietnam reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup and won the AFF Championship a year later.
The success was short-lived as the sports began to decline again around 2010. The country didn’t qualify for FIFA and three Asian Cups. Meanwhile, the U-20 team gained recognition through its notable performance in the 2017 U-20 World Cup. Thus began the golden era of football in the country with Park Hang-Seo, a former South Korean player. In 2018, the country’s U-23 team won a silver medal at the U-23 AFC Championship. Players from this team participated in the Olympics that year and won fourth place.
In 2019, Vietnam reached the quarters of the AFC Asian Cup and won the South East Asian Games. Meanwhile, the country’s women’s football team qualified for the 2023 FIFA World Cup, while both teams won the South East Asian Games in 2021 at home ground.
Is football big in Vietnam?
Football is the most popular sport in Vietnam and has become an integral part of its identity. The country has performed well in international events, and the sport is widely played and followed within the country at the regional level as well.
Who is the best football player in Vietnam?
The best football player currently in Vietnam is considered to be Nguyễn Quang Hải. He plays as an attacking midfielder in the national team and is also in the French club, Pau. He was nominated the best football player in Asia in 2017 and 2018.
What is the Vietnam Football Federation?
The Vietnam Football Federation is the governing body of football in Vietnam. It manages the affairs of all the football, beach soccer, and futsal in the country and organises national competitions. It is also a member of the FIFA, AFF, and AFC.