Luong Xuan Truong has become the latest example of how tough it could be for Vietnamese football players to succeed aboard, as the midfielder had his year-long contract with Thailand’s Buriram United terminated seven months early.
Truong landed in Hanoi from Thailand on Wednesday night, shortly after Thai media reported that his one-year loan contract with Buriram was ended less than five months after it closed in February.
The Thao & Van Hoa (Sports and Culture) newspaper said on Friday Truong’s Vietnamese club, Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC, has confirmed he will be playing for the team in the second half of Vietnam’s top-flight V-League 1’s season from next month.
Truong, 24, is among the first batch of young football talents to graduate from the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Academy, which started its training program with support from English Premier League side Arsenal in 2007.
Several graduates of the academy, including Truong and star striker Nguyen Cong Phuong, have been standouts on the Vietnamese under-23 team where they’ve achieved several international and regional accomplishments, but have failed to make names for themselves playing for foreign clubs.
Both Truong and Phuong played important roles in Vietnam’s second-place finish at the U23 Asian Cup in January, winning the fourth-place of the Asian Games tournament in August, and most remarkably, the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup in December, all in 2018.
With the contribution of the players, the national team even made it to the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in January, their first achievement of the year.
|Luong Xuan Truong takes a selfie with Buriram United's fan. Photo: Buriram|
With so many notches in its belt, Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC was convinced that its star players could fly high overseas, thus prompting decision to send prominent players like Truong and Phuong to foreign clubs for more professional exposure.
But the outcomes of such decisions were far from expected.
Truong never quiet reach expectations during his four months on Buriram United.
Over his short tenure, he chalked up a meager 316 minutes of playing time over nine of the club’s 21 matches in the first half of the Thai League 1 season. Of that, the number of games he was only registered as an official member of the Buriram squad for just four games.
Truong was not allowed to appear in the last four matches, with the coach not even listing him in the past two games. Buriram FC wound up declining to register him for the second half of the season, the final nail in the coffin for Truong.
Before moving to Buriram, Truong played for South Korea’s Incheon United and Gangwon FC in 2016 and 2017, respectively, but failed to leave an impression on either club.
|Luong Xuan Truong drags the ball during a practice session with Vietnam's national football team. Photo: A.T / Tuoi Tre|
Experiencing a similar bumpy ride in the international arena is Truong’s old training partner, striker Nguyen Cong Phuong.
Phuong had his first overseas club appearance with Japan’s Mito Holly Hock in 2016, before moving to Incheon United in 2019. However, just like Truong, Phuong was benched most of his few months at the two clubs.
The foreign clubs rarely let him hit the pitch much nor opted to extend his contracts after they ended.
The only Vietnamese player considered a successful example on overseas teams is veteran striker Cong Vinh, who played for Vietnam’s national teams from 2001 to 2016 and possessed the highest-ever record in Vietnam’s history with 51 goals under his belt.
Vinh joined Portugal’s Leixoes on a four-month loan contract in 2009 and played nine matches for Consadole Sapporo in the J-League in 2013.
No other Vietnamese footballer has since matched Vinh’s playing in developed football markets.
Vietnam’s football is currently brining up one of the most talent generations in its history. However, it appears it may have to wait a bit longer before its players start to shine abroad.