It’s a time for clean slates in Việt Nam at the moment, with the 13th National Celebration Congress starting, the new V.League 1 season is in its infancy and here at Việt Nam News, we introduce our ‘The Regional Game’ column.

Alright, some clean slates are undoubtedly more vital than others, however however, I’m thrilled to release this weekly column about all things regional football, from the V.League to the nationwide team and beyond.

The goal (see what I did there?) for this column is to present the wonders of the strange, crazy and in some cases mystifying, but always entertaining, world of Vietnamese football to casual fans, and ideally supply the periodic nugget of insight to the diehards.

Above all though, I’m hoping to have some fun, because at the end of the day that’s what football is about, it’s a game and it’s indicated to be enjoyable, which is something I feel it’s easy to lose sight of at the greatest levels.

So, with that out of that way onto the meat of this week’s column, a lad who isn’t having a terrible great deal of fun with his football these days and could possibly make with a brand-new start: Nguyễn Quang Hải.

Cast your mind back to the halcyon days of October 2019, when COVID-19 was but a twinkle in a bat’s eye and the phrase “Zoom meeting” wasn’t in anybody’s vocabulary.

Hải scored the only goal in a World Cup qualifier versus Malaysia to put Việt Nam on the method to topping their group with a delicious surface in a packed Mỹ Đình Stadium.

It was a minute of magic common of the diminutive playmaker and after a year when he was named the top player in the V.League 1 on top of success with the national team, one felt he was predestined for a transfer to a higher level of football.

Sadly, it’s mostly been downhill from there and Hai remains on the books of Hà Nội FC.

He flattered to deceive in 2020 and although he appeared with the periodic minute of magic for his club, it’s reasonable to say we’ve all been expecting a lot more from a male many dubbed among the most interesting players in Asia not too long back.

I enjoyed Hà Nội’s 2-1 defeat to Bình Dương on Saturday and Hải put in an efficiency that summarized his last year on the pitch.

There was the odd touch of class, a burst of acceleration when you believed something unique might be about to occur, and then … nothing. Like an amateur indie band structure, structure and structure towards a climax in a song that is asking for a rip-roaring chorus, prior to meekly proceeding to the next verse.

You see that’s been the thing with Hải recently, he’s not been a bad gamer by any stretch of the creativity, however the promise for a lot more has constantly been there.

If he truly desires to kick on and play his football at a greater level, he has to dominate week in, week out in the V.League 1, something he merely isn’t doing.

Now, why could that be? The negative among you may indicate the front page headlines he’s made worrying his love life as evidence the 23-year-old may be more thinking about scoring off the pitch than on it, however I could not possibly comment.

Others might indicate a degree of burnout and ask why in December 2019 was Hải playing in a local minor competition when he was the senior group’s star gamer, but who would not rather win the SEA Games than get approved for a poxy World Cup?

Perhaps the severe reality could be that expectations were set far too high for a player who produced some moments of magic for the nationwide and U23 group, however ultimately, when we look back in the cold light of day, they were just moments and not signifiers of the dawning of the age of Quang Hải.

Fortunately for Hải, he’s the author of his own story and if he really wants it, 2021 might be the clean slate he needs. VNS