COVID-19 overshadows 2022 V.League 1’s opening round

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Topenland Bình Định players training for the start of the season. They will host defending champions Viettel. — Photo of Topenland Bình ĐỊnh

HÀ NỘI — You won’t need reminding that COVID-19 has the ability to impact every aspect of life, and football is no exception. The Night Wolf V.League 1, which is kicked off today (February 25), is already grappling with how to deal with the pandemic this season, after cancelling the season for the first time ever last October.

The pandemic also caused trouble for the national women’s football team at the recent Asian Cup, as well as the U23 squad at the ongoing AFF Championship.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, but no less disappointingly, on Wednesday the Việt Nam Professional Football Company (VPF) announced a postponement of the V.League 1 first-round match between Hà Nội FC and Đông Á Thanh Hóa, scheduled for today at the Hàng Đẫy Stadium.

In a further announcement, VPF said Đông Á Thanh Hóa asked for the postponement because the team has 18 players, including all three goalkeepers, positive with COVID-19.

As such, Thanh Hóa only have 11 players available, which is not enough to compete. The regulations rule that a team must have at least 14 players, including two keepers, to take the field.

The VPF accepted Thanh Hóa’s request and the match will be rearranged for a yet-to-be-confirmed date.

Hà Nội are not affected as badly, though Nguyễn Quang Hải, Đỗ Duy Mạnh and Đoàn Văn Hậu are also isolating.

Early on Wednesday, Topenland Bình Định FC also planned to request a postponement to their game as 28 of their set-up, including 19 players, have returned positive tests.

Fortunately, after PCR tests on Thursday, 17 players are negative, leaving them ready to host defending champions Viettel at Quy Nhơn, although head coach Nguyễn Đức Thắng will not be present due to his positive result.

“Many of my teammates have COVID-19 but we still have enough players to play. We will compete with all we have. I myself had COVID-19 but got a negative result four days ago. I am ready for the season’s first match,” said striker Mạc Hồng Quân.

Bình Định are the team who spent the most in the recent transfer window. They have spent VNĐ110 billion (US$4.8 million) on 14 players, including national stars such as striker Hà Đức Chinh, defender Nguyễn Đình Trọng and national U23 midfielder Lý Công Hoàng Anh, in the hopes of challenging for the title this season.

On the other side, coach Trương Việt Hoàng also suffered from COVID-19. He could list only 20 players for the trip to Quy Nhơn. The rest of the team are isolating at their training centre.

“We have prepared well for the match. We have enough players for the game and will fight hard tomorrow,” said Hoàng.

Most of the teams playing today also have their own COVID-19 problems.

Sông Lam Nghệ An (SLNA) will visit Becamex Bình Dương without their head coach Nguyễn Huy Hoàng, who stays at home together with some other players with the same problem.

On top of this, their key midfielder Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng is also absent with a herniated disc.

After poor results in previous seasons, SLNA hope for better fortunes this year. They spent a lot luring national midfielder Hoàng and former national skipper Quế Ngọc Hải, and successfully extended the contract with goal-hunting striker Phan Văn Đức.

“My team are eager to play the first match. My key players are in good form. We will definitely have a good match against Bình Dương and bring home victory,” said Hoàng, in the coaching seat for the first time in his career.

Becamex Bình Dương are the luckiest in terms of COVID-19 affecting selection. They will have their best players ready to welcome Sông Lam Nghệ An at Gò Đậu Stadium. — Photo of Becamex Bình Dương

Bình Dương seem to be the only team safe in this first round, after national forward Nguyễn Tiến Linh has recovered from the COVID-19 some weeks ago.

Coach Đặng Trần Chỉnh will have best squad to entertain SLNA.

Linh, Brazilian striker Eydison Teofilo and captain Tô Văn Vũ, who finally found his spot in the national team early this month, are expected to perform well for the hosts, who have not bettered SLNA in the last 13 matches.

The other match today is between Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh and Hải Phòng.

The hosts Hà Tĩnh definitely want to repeat their shock 1-0 win when the two sides met in the fifth round match last season.

The win was a bang as Hà Tĩnh suffered four losses in a row, while high-ranking Hải Phòng won three of the four previous matches.

Both teams have been affected by COVID-19, but the first points from this match will help Hà Tĩnh keep on track to reach their target of a good finish this season.

Meanwhile, Hải Phòng hope to have a good start and a top-five finish this season. — VNS

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