Vietnam will begin constructing its largest badminton centre at Hanoi's elite athletes training centre by the end of this year, the Vietnam Badminton Federation's (VBF) vice chairman and general secretary, Le Thanh Sang, said on June 2.

The 400 billion VND (20 million USD) centre, expected to cover an area of 10,000sq.m, will be home to over 100 top badminton players, including a 2,500-seat Gymnasium near the My Dinh Sports Complex, 12km west of central Hanoi.

"The project is part of a sport development programme for 2011-15 by which VBF plans to train a new generation of top badminton players over the next five years," Sang said.

"Last year, the Asian Badminton Confederation suggested that Vietnam set up an international standard badminton centre, not only for Vietnamese players, but also players from other Asian countries," the general secretary added.

Although Vietnam currently has around 300 top players, only Nguyen Tien Minh has reached professional status.

HCM City-born Minh, ranked seventh in the world, is the only Vietnamese player earning well from world tournaments and sponsorships.

The 28-year-old, who leapt from 24th to 7th in world rankings over the past two years, earned around 120 million VND (6,000 USD) per month.

The VBF's general secretary said that Vietnam had still not found another player in the same league as Minh. "The VBF had often scouted for younger players to substitute Minh, but to no avail. Low payment has also kept potential prodigies away from the sport," Sang added.

"Although the VBF had invested in two players, Nguyen Hoang Hai from the Army and Le Ha Anh from Hanoi , over the past three years, neither could improve their world rankings."

The VBF has also struggled in obtaining adequate sponsorship even though they organise around 10 tournaments annually.

Currently, the VBF receives a 25,000 USD sponsorship from Yonex Sunrise for funding coaches and athletes competing and training abroad.

Two years ago, HCM City invited Indonesian Asep Suharno to coach Tien Minh with a monthly salary of 5,000 USD.

Hanoi has taken initiative in training its top badminton athletes with sponsorship from the Indonesian Citra West Lake City Development Company.

Hanoian starlet Le Thu Huyen,16, currently ranks 217th in the world women's division after three years of training with the Hanoi Ciputra team.

Bac Giang-born Vu Thi Trang, 19, who won a bronze medal at the Youth Olympics in Singapore , is another player steadily making a name for herself.

Trang is the only female Vietnamese player to receive sponsorship from sport producer ProAce.

The Hanoi-based badminton centre, expected to reach completion next year, plans to scout around 50 kids, aged between 8-9 years old, to take part in a five-year full-time training programme.

"The centre will additionally train athletes from other Asian countries. The VBF, with assistance from the Asian Badminton Confederation, will hire top coaches to train kids on a long term basis," the VBF's general secretary said.

" Vietnam has, up until recently, nurtured 45 young players at three centres in the northern Bac Ninh province, central city of Da Nang and the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho ."

The general secretary said he hoped that the elite centre in Hanoi would provide Vietnam with the best possible players for world competitions by 2015./.