Special challenges ahead for Vietnamese sports in 2022

VOV.VN - 2022 represents a special year for Vietnamese sports, particularly as the country will play host to the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) and send athletes to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou (China).

2021 – A year of both successes and defeats

Last year saw local sport record a number of successes, including the national futsal team’s qualification for the Futsal World Cup finals. For the second consecutive time, Vietnamese men made it through the group stage and were only knocked out by then defending champions Russia in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese football team coached by Park Hang-seo also made history as they progressed into the third and final qualifying round for the FIFA World Cup for the first time.

Despite these highlights, 2021 was also a disappointing year for Vietnamese sports as the Vietnamese delegation endured a tough time at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics held in Japan. All 18 local athletes competing in 11 sports did not win any medals, with major Vietnamese hopefuls such as marksmen Hoang Xuan Vinh, weightlifter Hoang Thi Duyen, and swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien all performing below capacity.

In an interview with VOV.VN following the games, senior sport expert Nguyen Hong Minh attributed these failures to the athletes’ poor qualifications, admitting that the level of Vietnamese athletes was not particularly high.

“Many people wonder why our athletes who had previously won medals at world champions, Olympics and Asian Games did not succeed this time. The fact is that our good athletes are few and far between, and the number of medals they have won are few, especially when compared to the stability of athletes from other countries,” Minh said.

Alongside an unsuccessful Olympics, Vietnam also failed to defend their AFF Cup championship title after losing 2-0 to archrivals Thailand in the semifinals of the 2020 AFF Cup held in Singapore late last year.

Before departing for Singapore, the national football team were expected to face an uphill task of defending their title, largely due to injuries to key players and exhaustion following participation in the third qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup, as well as poor nutrition during the competition. However, the way in which the national team were overwhelmed by their Thai rivals in the semifinals has left fans unsure of the team’s future prospects.

2022 – a special year full of challenges

2021 has elapsed and Vietnamese athletes do not have much time for regrets, but will instead work towards realising the tasks set for 2022. This year Vietnam will host the 31st SEA Games, the largest regional sporting event which was supposed to take place in 2021 but had been delayed until May this year due to the complex nature of the COVID-19 outbreak.

This year’s competitions are scheduled to take place from May 5 to May 23 in Hanoi and other neighbouring localities, including Bac Ninh, Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ha Nam, Nam Dinh. Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh, Vinh Phuc, Phu Tho, and Bac Giang.

According to Tran Duc Phan, deputy director general in charge of the Vietnam Sports Administration, May is the right time to host the 31st SEA Games as the event will not coincide with any other major sporting events of the year, such as the Winter Olympics in February or the ASIAD Games in September. In addition, organising the SEA Games in May also creates favourable conditions for Cambodia to host the coming SEA Games in 2023.

However, organising such a major sporting event also poses many challenges for the country. In a recent interview given to VOV.VN, Tran Duc Phan, deputy general director of the Vietnam Sports Administration, said, “Vietnam will host the 31st SEA Games in May and send athletes to China for the 19th ASIAD Games in September. Technically it is challenging because the two important events take place not far apart. We need to think over preparations to ensure the athletes can perform well at the two events to win medals.”

Phan assessed that the most challenging aspects for local athletes is that they have not been able to spend much time to practice, compete, or hone their skills due to the impact of the COVID-19. A number of national championships such as swimming or athletics were held at the end of 2021, but they have not been able to solve all problems. Therefore, local sports tournaments should be held in the early part of the year to sharpen the skills of Vietnamese athletes for coming regional sports events.

The latest SEA Games will be completely different from previous games as Vietnam will host all Olympic sports to create a level playing field for athletes from participating countries.

“In the previous games the host country often topped the medal tally and it may not be the case this time,” he said.

Over recent years the Government has gradually invested more into high-performance sports in Olympic and ASIAD competitions. The organisation of the 31st SEA Games in the most special way will serve as a springboard for Vietnam, as well as other regional countries, to choose the best athletes for the coming Asian Games in China. 

It cannot be understated that winning a medal at a continental sports competition is never easy for any regional athletes. In line with this, the best preparations for the 31st SEA Games will enable Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to take on challenges at continental competitions, especially the 19th ASIAD in Hangzhou, China, ahead in September.