Ivan Zoric: Good morning, Vietnam! (English version)
In my trip around the world of football, today I’m doing a stopover in Southeast Asia, specifically in Vietnam.
The national team currently occupies the 153rd place in the FIFA rankings, the 27th in Asia: worse than Maldives, just one place above India. Their best result was obtained in 1998 coming all’84thplace, when they were finalist in the ASEAN Football Championship losing 1-0 against Singapore.
In the Asian Cup, however, Vietnam reached the quarter-finals in 2007, in the only edition of which was able to take part (as one of the host countries).
Players of the national team all belong to Vietnamese club teams, except Lê Công Vinh playing with Consolade Sapporo, Japan, and Michal Nguyen, defender of Banik Most, in the second division of the Czech Republic.
To know better the Vietnamese football, emerging as the country itself, I met Ivan Zoric, young director of marketing and communications coordinator of the Ho Chi Minh City Football Club. In his experience as a football manager globetrotter, Ivan started from his homeland Vojvodina, Serbia, working for Dinamo Pančevo, the team of his city. From there he moved to Uganda, with the Sports Club Victoria University in Kampala. From 2013 he is in Vietnam.
What can you tell me about football in Vietnam? Is it followed by people?
“I don t know about north Vietnam but in south Vietnam, at this moment, football is not a sport with big attendance at the league games. Football is sport number one in Vietnam, but domestic league is not popular like Premier League or Spanish Liga”.
What level the championship is?
“For sure you can’t compare its level with any European football league. But in the South-Eastern Asia region is one of the Top leagues”.
How did you arrive in Vietnam? It’s not an usual place for football!
“I was invited to create and establish one project for football development and for organization of a professional football academy. You know, FIFA have more members then UN: every place on this world is a place for football! Somewhere, football is a sport number one, somewhere it is not. But in all countries, even in the smallest ones in the world, football is present”.
Are there a lot of foreign players?
“Some years ago in Vietnamese football leagues there were lots of foreign players and coaches. But financial crises affected all the segments of the society and also the sport, of course. Currently we have only few foreign players (mostly from Brazil and Africa) but no foreign coaches. There are good and bed periods in football in all the countries all over the world. Now situation is not a representative parameter for Vietnamese football, just passing through a difficult time. I think that in few years Vietnam league maybe will be stronger then it was in the period of our big expansion. In football everything is possible”.
Are pleyers professionals?
“In the 1st and 2nd division football players and coaches are all professionals. I must mention that the top world club Arsenal from England have a football academy in Ho Chi Minh City”.
What about the structures?
“Football infrastructures are very good. I can tell you one fact about infrastructures in Ho Chi Minh City: since 2005 the city was home for 91 football fields, 86 swimming pools, 256 gyms. The largest stadium in the city is the 25,000-seats Thong Nhat Stadium. The next largest stadium is the Army Stadium, that was one of the venues for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup finals. The city’s Department of Physical Education and Sports also manages a big number of clubs, including Phan Dinh Phung, Thanh Da, and Yet Kieu”.
How is life in Vietnam?
“It’s an extremely nice, safe and clean place to live. Ho Chi Minh is a metropolis with all the amenities you can have in any other capital city in the world. City lives 24h. Residents are extremely polite and hospitable. Certainly it’s one of the places where I could live. The only thing that I could easily adapt too are climatic conditions”.
Do you know anything about the national team?
“Yes of course. Vietnam national team has great support from the people and from the government. National team is not in top 100, but I think that, if the trend of expansion of football will continue to grow during the next 10 years, it’s possible that Vietnam will reach or will be close to teams like Japan or South Korea”.
What about Denilson? Is he the greatest star who ever played there?
This was a gold time or a Vietnam football. Yes I think that he is a one of the greates foreign star in Vietnam football. His decision to play in Vietnam can tell you lot of things about Vietnam football in this period. i was also work in Africa,and many of east africa player have dream to play in Vietnam,this is not without reason for sure.
Do you think are there good players that can arrive to European football?
“Maybe in the future. Nowadays the situation does not provide conditions for that”.