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Vietnam debates letting Arsenal-supported academy footballers play at ASEAN University Games

Saturday, November 01, 2014, 20:05 GMT+7
Vietnam debates letting Arsenal-supported academy footballers play at ASEAN University Games
Players of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai - Arsenal JMG Academy

A debate has begun over the plan to send under-19 players from the Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) – Arsenal JMG Academy, who are semi-professional, to the 17th ASEAN University Games next month in Indonesia.

According to the Games’ regulations, nine of the HAGL players are eligible to compete in the student tournament in Palembang from December 9 to 19 because they are currently students at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Physical Education and Sports.

But the question is if Vietnam even needs a win at the event with those players, who have been training with one another since the age of 12 and were silver medalists at the 2013 Southeast Asian U-19 Championship in Indonesia, the 2014 under-22 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei, and the 2014 AFF Nutifood U-19 Cup in Hanoi.

Furthermore, the price for such a victory might be their possible subjection to injuries and overload in competition.

Ngu Duy Anh, head of the Student Affairs Department under the Ministry of Education and Training, was quoted by Thanh Nien newspaper as saying that, “We decided to assign the University of Physical Education and Sports to set up a football team to play in the tournament in Indonesia.

“The school selected Cong Phuong, Tuan Anh, and other players from the HAGL academy to join the team,” Anh said.

“We reminded the school to consider whether the players may become too fatigued to play the event.

“However, all the U-19 HAGL players have said they wish to be allowed to take part.”

The HAGL players have played many games in recent tournaments so many are worried they may feel exhausted in the coming competition. 

Professor and Doctor Huynh Trong Khai, president of the university, promised that, “We will create chances for the players to follow academic programs and exams so that they aren’t affected by their participation in the event.”

Vietnam hopes to advance to the 2015 World University Games in South Korea where Japanese and South Korean teams, including professional players, will also compete, Thanh Nien cited Khai as saying.

French coach Guillaume Graechen of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) – Arsenal JMG Academy, who has trained the under-19 players for many years, supported the idea by telling the newspaper that, “I don’t think the players will become overloaded with the student tournament.

“It would be worrying if the players went a month without competing.”

Others argue that there will not be genuine pride if the HAGL players win the student tournament because they excel in football knowledge and practice.

Tran Huu Nghia, chairman of the Vietnam Football Supporters (VFS) association, told Thanh Nien, “The U-19 HAGL players have competed in over 40 matches this year, a record for young players, so they need time to rest.

“It will not be a good idea to send professional footballers to compete with students.”

One of Vietnam’s richest tycoons, 52-year-old Doan Nguyen Duc, spent US$4 million founding the Arsenal-supported football academy in 2007.

He then sent scouts across the country to find gifted kids to train at his Hoang Anh Gia Lai – Arsenal JMG Academy, located in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.

The current under-19 HAGL players are the first batch of the academy’s training program.

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