21 October 2009
If Morrati bought AC Milan...
Sorry, we're talking about the case of The Cong FC and ACB Ha Noi herein. Serie A and V-League, certainly there's no comparison. However, the rivalry between two Ha Noi's clubs that share the same stadium could rank alongside what between Internazionale and AC Milan.
The Cong is the oldest and most successful club in Vietnam football's history. The team used to be under the control of Ministry of National Defense (MND) and indeed has become an icon of military force in term of sport. Since Vietnamese football became professional, the rise of some new cash-rich clubs put The Cong's dominance to an end. In 2004, The Cong was relegated from V-League. As a change was required, MND allowed its Viettel Telecom, one of biggest Vietnamese telecommunication company, to take control of the club. However, the name "The Cong" had to be retained as demand from MND, which still play a top role in management. After taking control, Viettel showed no hesitation in investing in personnel and infrastructure. They also sent a youth squad to Europe for long-term plan. In 2007, The Cong came back to Vietnamese top league with a bright future lying ahead.
V-League 2009 saw The Cong reach its climax of ambition as Viettel made a record investment of USD 4,200,000. Despite having a quality squad and that much expectation, The Cong only managed to do just enough to avoid relegation. Both MND and Viettel were extremely disappointed and they have come to a shocking decision. In September 2009, MND made an announcement that "The Cong", the most long-standing name of Vietnamese football, would be no more attached to the V-League side and Viettel would take full control of the club. Fans were deeply upset and protested against the decision but it was futile. Viettel changed its club name to Viettel FC and it was believed that the board had lost its interest in football and were planning on selling the club. And what fans were afraid was coming true.
After failing to reach an agreement with Ho Chi Minh City FC on a takeover, Viettel was said to be in talk with Nguyen Duc Kien, president of ACB Ha Noi. The worst thing is that ACB Ha Noi (formerly and more commonly known as Ha Noi Police) is The Cong's biggest rival. ACB Ha Noi was relegated last season and Kien may find this takeover the shortest way to bring his club back to V-League. ACB Ha Noi is no stranger to this kind of promotion since they did it once some years ago. A merge could be on the verge as VFF showed its willingness to see it go on.
This is what happens in Vietnamese football today: One club can buy a promotion slot with money and a name can be erased or changed so easily. No one cares about fans. A The Cong's fan may suffer two worst shocks while confusion is what an ACB Ha Noi's fan (like me) feels. No more derby.