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Money an issue as Vietnam’s football body seeks ways to retain hero manager

Wednesday, June 19, 2019, 14:11 GMT+7
Money an issue as Vietnam’s football body seeks ways to retain hero manager
South Korean head coach Park Hang Seo lifts the AFF Cup in Hanoi, in December 2018. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Local supporters are afraid the cash-strapped Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) may fail to keep a South Korean manager who has brought his magic to the country’s football over the last couple of years, as his contract is due to end in seven months.

Park Hang Seo accepted the Vietnam job in late 2017, with his contract with the VFF expiring on January 31, 2020.

Under his spell, Vietnam finished second at the under-23 Asian Cup in January last year, won the fourth-place of the Asian Games tournament in August, and most remarkably, the trophy of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup in December.

The 60-year-old South Korean also led the national team to the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in January, their first achievement this year.

With such a string of accomplishments, it is without doubt that Vietnam will never want to lose his hero football boss.

But extending his contract, which will understandably require new terms and clauses, is financially a tough task for VFF, the country’s football governing body.

Who has paid Park over the years?

Under the current contract, Park’s monthly wage and expenses are covered by Doan Nguyen Duc, who runs multifaceted conglomerate Hoang Anh Gia Lai and a namesake football academy.

It was Duc who ‘discovered’ Park and managed to convince him to work in Vietnam back in 2017, when the Vietnamese tycoon was the then-VFF deputy chairman in charge of finance.

The magnate, known for his great love for and contribution to Vietnam’s football, offered to cover a monthly gross wage of US$20,000 and other expenses for Park during the contract ending in 2020, using his own money rather than VFF’s budget.

On a monthly basis, Duc transfers VND800 million ($34,400) to VFF to pay Park. The amount has accumulated to VND19 billion ($817,000) over the past two years.

If the contract is to be extended, it will be the football federation’s turn to take charge of paying the South Korean coach.

VFF now faces a major headache - how to offer a salary attractive enough to retain Park and, if he agrees to stay, how to financially afford his new wage and expenses.

South Korea's Park Hang Seo shakes hands with locals during a visit to Quang Ngai Province, central Vietnam on June 18, 2019. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

South Korea's Park Hang Seo shakes hands with locals during a visit to Quang Ngai Province, central Vietnam on June 18, 2019. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Can VFF afford it?

According to people with knowledge of the matter, VFF may have to pay up to $40,000-50,000 a month in the renewed contract with Park, a record in Vietnam’s football history in terms of payment for foreign football coach. This is not to mention other allowances for the football boss.

In addition, continuing to have Park Hang Seo as the country’s football manager also means VFF would have to keep hiring a team of five to six South Korean assistants, something the federation has struggled to do in the last two years as it requires nearly the same amount of money paid to the coach.

To complicate the matters, VFF is not a deep-pocketed entity, but a federation that has been financially struggling to maintain operations.

VFF posted VND171 billion ($7.35 million) in revenue, but incurred a loss of VND6 billion ($258,000) in 2017, according to its finance report in December 2018. The situation in the fiscal year 2018 was no better, and so is 2019 expected to be.

In fact, VFF had planned to turn to the General Department of Sports and Physical Training for VND10 billion ($430,000) in support when it was going to give Park the Vietnam job, before Duc offered to take it upon himself.

The federation may have to make this move again as a last resort.

The General Department of Sports and Physical Training is ready to give VFF an annual allocation of VND10 billion for training and international competitions.

“If VFF needs support to be able to pay a higher salary for coach Park, we are willing to lend a hand as this is a national mission,” said a leader from the general department.

VFF can also ask the finance ministry to consider giving the football coach an exemption of personal income tax to reduce its financial burden, the leader added.

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