VietNamNet Bridge – Besides the The Cong FC, the Saigon Port is one of the two eldest and the most beloved football clubs in Vietnam. The The Cong FC has no longer existed while the Saigon Port was on the bank of collapse.
HCM FC is in crisis.
Actually, the name “Saigon Port” does not exist at present but its members or its “soul” are now players of the HCM City FC. However, this FC, which has the last vestiges of the legendary Saigon Port is struggling to survive.
The 2012 football season is nearly close and the HCM City FC is among the teams at the bottom of the ranking list of the First Division Tournament, one of the two key football tournaments in Vietnam.
However, the biggest problem of this team is not whether it can stay with the First Division Tournament in the next season but whether it can exist or is dissolved because of lacking fund.
In the first stage of the First Division Tournament, the Sacombank poured VND5 billion ($250,000) into this FC, to pay salary for its players until the tournament ends.
Some anonymous sources said that the HCM City authorities asked Sacombank to save the team. However, the local government cannot give more money to this football club because many other businesses in the city also need financial assistance. Sacombank’s loan is also modest compared to the FC’s debts. The FC needs at least VND20 billion ($1 million) to maintain its normal operation annually.
Players are paid but the HCM City FC has to pay many other things, from traveling cost, accommodations, etc. As its fund is empty, the team’s debts are getting bigger.
To save the team, its managing director Nguyen Chi Kien, who is the General Director of the Saigon Steel-Saigon Port Sports JS Company, had to mortgage his car and his house to borrow from bank.
However, Kien’s financial capability is limited and he is the only one who accepts to pay for the team. Kien has tried every means and he has to give up now.
The HCM City FC used to have sponsors and be owned by a big business – the Vietnam Steel Corporation. This corporation was only interested in the team on its first days investing in football, in 2004-2005. Since then, it has gradually cut down investment in the FC.
HCM FC's managing director Nguyen Chi Kien.
“They promised a lot at the beginning but they have not allocated money to the team. Since I joined this FC, the assets of mine and my family have been reducing or have been used as mortgages to borrow money from banks to pay salary and bonus for footballers. I’m sinking deeper into debt,” managing director Nguyen Chi Kien said.
Kien said the Vietnam Steel Corporation has transferred all of its shares on the HCM City FC to him while Kien wanted to sell the shares to other partners.
“Players eat only rice to play football. Our foreign players have not paid just a coin of transfer fees. Several days ago, I liquidated an employment contract with a foreign player though we have not paid transfer fee and owed him one and a half month of salary. If the local government does not help, our team will die,” Kien said.
The FC’s coach, Mr. Srdan Zinojnov from Serbia, has not received his salary for a long time.
In the economic crisis, the HCM City FC is facing big difficulties because HCM City administration has to take care of hundreds of businesses, not only this FC.
For the local government, the HCM City FC is a business like other businesses, which are complaining of lacking capital. According to statistics, hundred businesses in the city are dissolved each day. If the city rescues the FC, it will have to rescue hundred businesses that are also on the verge of bankruptcy.
In fact, the city has several times poured capital into the team but giving more money is not the best way to save the HCM City FC.
The best solution, according to managing director Kien, is to seek a new sponsor or a new investor. In this difficult time, it is difficult to find out a sponsor or an investor. The fate of the HCM City FC or the legendary Saigon Port FC is like a candle in the wind.
The two eldest FCs in Vietnam
is the collective name for numerous sports clubs that were founded within the Vietnam People's Army. With strong tradition of sports in the Army, The Cong possesses a very long and rich history. Among the clubs, the football team is regarded as one of the best in the history of Vietnamese football. The football club also has one of the strongest and most loyal fan-base in the country. In late 2009, The Cong was sold to Viettel Mobile. The club then changed its name to Viettel FC.
The Cong was founded on 23 September in 1954. More than a month later, 25 October, the team had its first match on Hang Day Stadium, Hanoi.
In 2004, 50 years after its foundation, the club finished V-League at 11th place (out of 12) and was relegated to the lower division. After that, the club changed its name to The Cong Viettel F.C. after its new sponsor Viettel Mobile - the Army Electronics and Telecommunication Corporation.
On January 19, 2006, the club finally gained the right to be promoted back to V-League after winning over Tay Ninh 5-3. Immediately thereafter, the official team name was reversed back to The Cong.
The Cong is the most successful club in Vietnam with five V-League titles and thirteen championship titles of the former League A of North Vietnam. The club has also contributed many great players to the Vietnam National Football Team.
In 2010, Viettel Mobile put the club up for sell and was bought by V-League club Lam Sơn Thanh Hóa. The new owners merged the two clubs. Some of the players moved to the new owners club, while some on the roster protested they would never play for the new owners. The Youth squad will play for the newly formed club Viettel Football Center in the Vietnam Second Division.
Saigon Port FC:
The HCM City-based football team was established on November 1, 1975, under the name Saigon Port Workers' Football Team. It was then called the Saigon Port FC.
On January 22, 2009, it was again re-named into the HCM City FC. Its major sponsor is the Vietnam Steel Corporation.
The name change was fiercely protested by the team's fans because Saigon Port is a spiritual assets and a big trademark, but they could not stop that because the Saigon Port could not afford to maintain the team.
Compiled by Nam Nguyen