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Promises, doubts linger ahead of last matches of Vietnam’s football league

Although football officials have promised to employ measures to prevent match-fixing and competing clubs have promised not to throw games, fans suspect that some will ‘donate points’ to those battling against relegation when Vietnam’s top-flight V-League 1 is drawing to an end.

In the closing stage of the V-League 1, those clubs that have accumulated enough points to stay in the competition tend to ‘slack off’ and lose games with teams that are in desperate need of points to avoid being relegated.

This is to build ‘connections’ so that those ‘donating points’ that way will get ‘help’ from the clubs receiving the favor whenever they get into trouble sometime in the future.

Nguyen Minh Ngoc, head of the organizing board of the V-League 1
Nguyen Minh Ngoc, head of the organizing board of the V-League 1

The V-League 1, where 14 clubs are competing, will wrap up in three weeks, with some early matches of the 24th round taking place today.

Three ‘sensitive’ matches of this round are Can Tho – Song Lam Nghe An, Dong Tam Long An – Dong Nai, and Hoang Anh Gia Lai – Hanoi T&T.

Song Lam Nghe An, Dong Tam Long An, and Hanoi T&T are in the safe zone now while their rivals are bottom-ranked and striving to escape from the relegation area.

Nguyen Minh Ngoc, head of the organizing board of the V-League 1, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that he will take necessary measures to prevent teams from “throwing games to build networks and connections.”

The Vietnam Football Federation has sent letters to the competing clubs, urging them to play football in an honest and sportsmanlike manner.

The federation said its officials will coordinate with police to keep a close watch on ‘sensitive’ matches in the final rounds of the league to timely respond if match-rigging occurs.

Coaches have promised that their players will play fair football while admitting inexplicable losses may come any time.

After recent matches, the supporters of several clubs hung banners appealing to police to investigate suspected defeats by a few teams because they thought the games had been fixed.

The supporters called for police to probe the 1-3 loss of Song Lam Nghe An to Hoang Anh Gia Lai in the 22nd round on August 22 and the 1-2 defeat of Dong Tam Long An against Can Tho last week.

Earlier, the fans of Hai Phong FC had hung banners to request police officers to look into the loss of their club to Can Tho.

It is this subtle rigging that has eroded the confidence of supporters and sponsors in Vietnam’s top-flight football league and downgraded the value of the competition.

Toyota spends just VND30 billion (US$1.4 million) a year to become the main sponsor of the V-League 1 but it costs the firm VND170 billion ($7.7 million) to be the sponsor of Thailand’s Thai Premier League.