|Thach Bao Khanh (L), a midfielder of The Cong and Vietnam’s national team|
Fans of V-League army club The Cong were surprised when the squad was renamed Viettel FC by the Ministry of Defense last week.
Artist Duc Trung, former president of the clubâs fan association, said, âI was really shocked by the news. The words âThe Congâ have been part of the lives of millions of fans around the country for years.â
The Cong, the football oldest club in Vietnam, won 13 national championships as part of the top-flight A Class League from 1954 to 1975. The team has also won five national championships since the country was re-united in 1975.
In 2004, the club was relegated from the top-tier V-League to First Division. The next year, its name was changed to The Cong Viettel as it came under partial control of the military-owned company Viettel Corporation.
In 2006, the team returned to the V-League under the The Cong banner again. But the name has now changed a third time, with Viettel Corporation in full ownership of the team.
A top official in the army said the change was âjustâ a change of name and that almost everyone knew the team was going to loose its name.
But die-hard fans argue that The Cong, which is short for Cong Tac The Thao Quan Doi (Army Sports Unit), is more than just the name of the club, it is like a brand name.
Football fans, sportswriters and pundits throughout Vietnam know the squad for its military-like discipline.
The club is known for rarely breached any rules or regulations both on and off the field.
Before The Cong, teams like Saigon Port, Hanoi Police and Tong Cuc Duong Sat (Railway General Department) had lost their names after being bought by big businesses.
It is no longer possible for football clubs to survive with the meager financial support of local cities or provincial authorities.
Many other clubs are likely to lose their names, which have been emblazoned in the hearts and minds of their fans for decades, in the near future.
Source: Tuoi Tre, The Thao