V-League organisers failing to find the target

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by Nguyen Thanh Ha

Ho Quang Hung, a fan of Song Lam-Nghe An (SLNA) football club, and his friends were very angry because they were badly treated by the Xuan Thanh-Sai Gon (XTSG) football club during a match between the two teams earlier this month.

Hung said to deal with SLNA, one of V-league’s most professional football clubs, XTSG purchased all the seats for their match at Thong Nhat Stadium in HCM City for VND80 million per game. Then they decided to increase ticket prices from VND20,000 to 40,000 per ticket.

“More than 10,000 SLNA fans with yellow T-shirts have suffered because of these unreasonable prices. They were very angry with the host’s bad behaviour. Many of them brought token money, which includes US$100 and VND500,000 bills, to the stadium hours before the match began,” Hung said, adding that fans aimed to use the token money to worship XTSG at its death.

This token money is often burnt at temples after a person dies or during the anniversary of a death.

In fact, SLNA beat XTSG 3-1 at the match, and as fans predicted, the stadium was full of token money and other items that were thrown by SLNA fans to bury XTSG.

Another SLNA fan, Duong Van Thu, said they still have many undistributed packages of token money to spend on the A grandstand, capital for XTSG not to increase ticket prices anymore.

Another time, for a clash between Hoa Phat Ha Noi and Xi Mang Hai Phong (XMHP) at Ha Noi’s Hang Day Stadium, organisers tried to triple ticket prices to make it more difficult for XMHP fans to attend the match.

Despite the unreasonable price of VND200,000 per ticket, XMHP fans vowed to enter the stadium by any means and support their favourite club. As a result, these hooligan fans of XMHP killed one person and injured many others.

Unlike their counterparts in European countries, where tickets for professional football matches are priced and sold before the season starts, football organisers in Viet Nam are unskillful in their approach to selling tickets.

True fans said organisers should consult the relevant agencies that relate to football and the fans before deciding to raise ticket price.

“To become professional at football, organisers should respect the fan first, because the fan is the team’s 12th footballer,” said Ho Van Chiem, executive director of SLNA.

In England and Germany fans play an important part in the role of a football club, and they never miss a match. As a result, they bring many benefits to their favourite teams, such as the ability to sell the broadcast rights for matches to different TV stations.

However, in Viet Nam, the V-league has entered its 13th year, but the Viet Nam Football Federation (VFF) still has to ask TV stations to broadcast matches for free.

“Fan associations in Viet Nam are self-developed without the benefit of operating professionally, unlike their counterparts in Europe,” said Chiem.

He said to develop the V-league into a professional one, the VFF should duplicate the SLNA model, where fans play an important role in the club. They are always ready to go along and support their club.

Agreeing with Chiem, Nguyen Quang Hai, an attacker from XMHP and the national football squad, said when he played for the club, crowds of fans would come and support him and his team.

“Seeing these excited fans, I understand that I’m playing for a professional football team. They encourage me very much,” Hai said.

He singled out Vu Xuan Tien, also known as the “Running Man”, as an example. Tien, 20, is a fan of Arsenal, who played the national team last month at My Dinh Stadium.

Hai said he is very interested in Tien’s way of supporting his favourite football club.

It seems to be the first time international mass media, such as the Daily Mail, ESPN, BBC and Sky Sport, covered the enthusiasm of a Vietnamese football fan.

On July 15, Tien chased a bus carrying the Arsenal footballers for 8km. Seeing Tien chasing their bus, many of them cheered and chanted “Sign him up, sign him up.”

Tien was eventually invited aboard the bus by coach Arsene Wenger, where the entire team autographed Tien’s Arsenal shirt. They called Tien: the Running Man.

But more importantly, before the eyes and ears of more than 40,000 fans at My Dinh Stadium, Wenger officially invited Tien to come to the UK, saying he admired the young Vietnamese man very much for his good will: despite being tired and having to doge traffic, he never gave up on his goal of catching the bus and meeting his favourite players.

“His willingness would be helpful to my players during difficult matches for this reason,” Wenger said.

Nguyen Tung Lam, head of the Ha Noi’s Dinh Tien Hoang secondary school and chairman of the Ha Noi Association for Psychological Education, said “Tien is a cultural spirit fan. His behaviour is a very good lesson for other young fans to follow.” — VNS

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