The football season climaxed on Sunday with a young local coach getting the better of a famous foreign import to win the National Cup.
|Coach Nguyen Huu Thang leads his team to win the National Cup.|
Nguyen Huu Thang\'s Song Lam Nghe An got past Hoang Anh Gia Lai coached by former Thai star Kiatisak Senamuang 1-0 in a rain-soaked final, with Adulzarak M. Ekpoki precisely nodding home a Nguyen Quang Tinh corner in the 25th minute.
Thang\'s victory capped a season dominated by young local coaches even as foreign coaches struggled to make a mark. The last foreigner to coach a winning team was Portuguese Henrique Calisto in 2006 who led Dong Tam Long An to the title.
Following the final on Sunday, Thang excitedly ran the width of the pitch to grandstand B to celebrate its first National Cup victory with his club\'s elated fans.
It clearly showed the former defender\'s vaulting ambition to establish himself as a top-notch coach.
"We will soon begin preparations for next season and are ready to face challenges in higher-level competitions," Thang said after the match, implying his team will take the 2011 AFC Cup seriously.
But all season it was apparent that not only Thang but also many other young local coaches were eager to make a mark after the roaring success of Le Huynh Duc last season.
Duc, Thang\'s former national teammate and Viet Nam\'s all time leading international goal-scorer, led Da Nang to a double last season in his first full year as a coach.
Though his team failed to defend their V-League title and finished disappointingly in sixth place, Duc has one more chance this year when they play Bahrain\'s Al Riffa in the quarter-finals of the AFC Cup this month.
Other young coaches like Pham Cong Loc of Dong Thap and Hoang Anh Tuan of Khanh Hoa also had a fairly successful season, leading their teams to third and fourth places in the league.
"The number of young coaches in the V-League is increasing and it has become a trend," Phan Thanh Hung, coach of newly-crowned league champions Hanoi T&T, said.
"They have been trained at AFC coaching classes and work hard. Being former players, they are quick to understand their players and the local football environment."
Mai Duc Chung, an experienced coach who has become the first Vietnamese coach to lead a Vietnamese club to the semi-finals of AFC Cup, said: "It is good news for Vietnamese football that many capable young coaches, who were good players, are contributing to its development."
Meanwhile, foreign coaches are struggling to get their act right.
Considered to be one of the best foreign players in the early years of the V-League and twice winner of the Best Player of the Season prize, Senamuang has been unable to achieve similar success as a coach at his former club.
Portuguese coach Jose Luis was a failure at Dong Tam Long An and was replaced midway through the season by countryman Ricardo M. Formosinho.
Since Calisto\'s second successive V-League title in 2006, many other foreign coaches like Luis Francesco Vital, and former national coach Alfred Riedl led V-League clubs but without much success.
Hung said: "There are many reasons why foreign coaches flop in Vietnam. Some have little time to adapt to Vietnamese football and players.
"Moreover, under pressure for results from the club, if foreign coaches are slow to adapt and show little knowledge of Viet Nam\'s football, they are likely to be replaced after just a few poor results.
"On one hand, clubs need to allow coaches more time to adjust their strategies and on the other, good coaches need a bunch of quality players to succeed."