Saturday , January 28 2023

World Cup qualification no boost for Vietnamese women’s football


Celebrations and plenty of bonuses came to the national women’s football team after their historic World Cup qualification, but that doesn’t mean a new chapter for Vietnamese women’s football.

The total bonus that the national team have received to date is around VND30 billion ($1.32 million). If that money is split evenly, each player will get about VND1 billion ($44,000). That seems like a big sum, but it’s actually not in comparison to the seasonal bonus of an above-average male player in V. League. Some people have even said that number is already really good for a female player.

And that’s where the problem lies.

The very first women’s football club in Vietnam was established in HCMC in 1994. Four years later, the first national women’s football championship took place with seven clubs, including a high school team in Hanoi. Only three years later, the national women’s team won the 2001 SEA Games gold medal and successfully defended it in 2003.

By 2008, Vietnam had climbed to sixth in Asia and in 2022, 24 years since the first national championship, secured World Cup qualification. The team could have done it earlier in 2014 if they didn’t lose to Thailand in the playoffs.

The Vietnam national womens football team at the Vietnam Football Federation headquarters on February 11, 2022. Photo by Vietnam Football Federation

The Vietnam national women’s football team at the Vietnam Football Federation headquarters in Hanoi on February 11, 2022. Photo by Vietnam Football Federation

While it only took three generations of players for women’s football to realize the World Cup dream, men’s football has passed 40 years and still barely scratched the surface with their first win during their first time in the final round of World Cup qualifiers on Feb. 1.

It took Vietnamese men’s football 28 years to win the first AFF Cup title in 2008 and they are currently among the top 20 teams of Asia. For women’s football, to achieve World Cup qualification, they have consistently been in the Asia top eight for years. That means men’s football should start their journey to World Cup qualification by at least getting into Asia’s top 10.

Despite having made giant steps in such a short period of time, only when the national women’s football team qualified for World Cup did bonuses start pouring in. Eight years ago, they nearly did the same but didn’t receive any bonuses.

Nonetheness, all of these bonuses won’t change the current scene of Vietnamese women’s football. It doesn’t prove that after this historic feat, women’s football in Vietnam will turn to a new chapter and get rid of existing problems. The opportunity to qualify for the World Cup of women’s football is due to the big number of slots in Asia. That means Vietnam can play the World Cup quite often, and the team need a long-term investment for further improvement, in order to go far there.

But presently, how many enterprises are actually interested in women’s football, or do most of them just do it spontaneously and give out bonuses as a form of media attraction?

Either way, bonuses are good. In the immediate future, the current squad will have a considerable amount of savings for their retirement. However, it does not mean the women’s football movement in Vietnam will be significantly developed or promoted, because over 20 years of the national championship history, the number of clubs is still only eight and HCMC and Hanoi dominate most of the time. The opportunity to be called up and get big bonuses is only for a few people and that does not contribute to the general movement.

Because there is no movement, no more clubs are established, so the quality of the national championship remains the same. The current generation of female players who won tickets to the World Cup, in terms of expertise, is not necessarily superior to previous generations. Therefore, in order to gain more achievements, Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) will have to invest heavily in international training. But those investments are seldom seen.

The last time the national championship had a true sponsor was 15 years ago, from a brand related to women’s products. After that, the financial source for women’s football came mainly from individual and acquaintance contributions.

For instance, the women’s national championship was organized by the company of futsal boss Tran Anh Tu, while the national team was supported by domestic bank BIDV (from 2014-2016) and now real estate company Hung Thinh Land, which covers the expenses for training and competing. But the thing is that these companies could only benefit from sponsoring the men’s national team and not the women’s.

The joy of qualifying for Women’s World Cup remains and will continue for the next couple of months. But when those players return to their clubs, all they will think about will be the gloomy domestic championship.

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