Ljupko Petrović has seen almost everything in the world of football, but the Vietnamese game is capable of surprising even him.
To put it mildly, the 74-year-old Serbian coach has been around the block.
He won the European Cup as manager of Red Star Belgrade in 1991, he became the first Serb to coach a top-flight Croatian team after the Yugoslav war, has coached in Dubai, Kazakhstan, and Rwanda (among other stops around the world), and even lost a job a day after he was announced as coached when he was linked to a deceased Serbian paramilitary (links Petrović denies).
Now, he’s in his second stint as coach of Thanh Hóa which, for the most part, must be a much calmer place to make a living than he’s used to.
Things are certainly relaxed for Petrović now, as he’s got nothing to do.
In a revealing interview with zingnews.vn, Petrović expressed his astonishment that the V.League 1 is taking a four-month break to allow the national team and U23 national team to prepare for international competitions.
He went far as to say that there was nowhere else in the football world like Việt Nam, and not to put words in the coach’s mouth, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a compliment.
Petrović went on to explain that Thanh Hóa had sent their squad (bar injured players) home, so there was little for him to do other than prepare home exercise regimens for them and hope they stick to them.
While lots has been said about how ludicrous it is to stop league play for four months in these pages and elsewhere, Petrović still brought up some great points that I haven’t seen widely shared.
For one thing, he noted that Hà Nội FC and Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) players make up a huge proportion of the squad and he’s right, as the two sides have contributed nine of the 20 players who travelled to Japan.
So why is every other club effectively being punished by the long layoff? Couldn’t the entire league stop for one week and give those two clubs one extra week off instead of a four-month suspension of play?
Petrović also noted that HAGL, last season’s top team, have started the season poorly, probably because they haven’t been able to train with their international stars very often.
The septuagenarian coach was careful not to tell football authorities here what to do, but did suggest that the V.League follow the example of European leagues when it comes to international breaks.
They say experience is the best teacher, so maybe Petrović is the man to listen to. VNS