FIFA instructor Jan Poulsen has urged Vietnamese football authorities to build a longer and stronger national league and invest in extensive youth training programmes to move Vietnamese football forwards.

The V-League only has 12 teams, who compete in 22 competitive matches over a five-month season. According to Poulsen, this is far from enough.

"For Vietnam to progress, a longer season with more teams is essential. Players need to have more game time. More clubs should also be involved in continental tournaments, as this experience will go on to improve national team's performance," Poulsen added.

His point of view is based on the decline in Vietnamese football over the past few years. The country has not had a representative in the AFC Champions League for a long time while clubs playing in the AFC Cup seldom get very far.

But things may soon change for the better. The V-League 2014 will add two more teams, bringing the number to 14. More are planned to join in future seasons.

Besides a longer and stronger national football season, Poulsen, who is giving coaching lectures to 22 local trainers in a FIFA-sponsored course at the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), said domestic football would improve greatly if every club develops its own youth training programme.

Poulsen said that in his country Denmark, (which has a population of just six million) there are 1,600 football clubs from grassroots to professional levels which all educate players from a young age.

In the wake of the success achieved by the country's first football academy, Hoang Anh Gia Lai – Arsenal JMG, VFF formed an U19 team for girls and an U16 team for boys.

To do this, they asked clubs all over the country to send their best young players to the VFF's youth training centre, rather than scouting up and down the country to find new talent and train them from the ground up.

Poulsen said in the long-term this would not be sustainable and advised that the country should set up its own academies in different regions.

"That way we have more players to select. It is very difficult to select the best national team with players at the age of 14 or 15 because you do not know whether they are going to develop to be the best. An academy system gives a better insight and provides training from an early age," the Dane remarked.

Since 2007, some youth football academies have been established throughout the country, including the Viettel Academy in Hanoi and the Professional Vietnam Fund in HCM City. Meanwehile, a couple of V-League clubs with a good youth training tradition like Song Lam Nghe An and Dong Thap have invested time and money in young players.

Viettel is probably the biggest academy in Vietnam with a main base in Hanoi and ten branches located around the country. The centre is training over 100 players between the ages of 12 and 19, who are recruited through a nationwide talent scouting programme led by famous ex-footballers like Dang Phuong Nam and Nguyen Hong Son.

These few academies have been working hard on programmes and philosophies to produce professional footballers in the future. While Hoang Anh Gia Lai – Arsenal JMG has already seen their plans begin to bear fruit, others have yet to achieve the same result.

According to Poulsen, to have a good academy, you must have good coaches and a good infrastructure. Academies should have a philosophy based on how the VFF wants the national team to play. Players should be taught how to work well as a team, as well as technical skills and training and playing time should be maximised.

Poulsen argued that with all of these steps, Vietnamese football does have the potential to improve markedly, boosting both clubs and the national team.-VNA