If you weren't aware of it before, make no mistake that the Vietnamese are taking big steps to increase their influence in the sporting arena in both Cambodia and Laos. On my recent visit to Vientiane for the SEA Games, it was obvious to me that Vietnam were using the current inability of Thailand to present any sort of unified front, to step up their presence in Laos and exert a far-reaching influence that is not just confined to sport. The Vietnamese company Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group
were the main benefactors by way of a $4 million gift for the construction of the SEA Games athletes' village. They also funded three months of training by the Laos U23 football team in the central highlands province of Gia Lai, as well as paying the salary of the Laos coach Alfred Riedl. Of course, they haven't done it out of the goodness of their own heart - the group have inked commercial deals in Laos that include mining and timber concessions. The Hoang Anh Gia Lai conglomerate have branched out from its original base in rubber plantations in Vietnam's highlands to include interests
in real estate, hotels, and other industries. The head of HAGL, Doan Nguyen Duc, known as Bau (Big Boss) Duc, is believed to be the richest man in Vietnam. Hoang Anh is his daughter's name, Gia Lai his modest home base in the highlands.
HAGL's next major sporting investment is geared towards improving Cambodia's national football team. They have pledged $4 million towards the construction of the new national football center to be built in the Bati district of Takeo. They have also offered to help prepare the national team for the Suzuki Cup later next year as well as provide coaches for the country's youth team. Don't forget that HAGL, who operate a football academy in association with Arsenal, were the beaten finalists in the BIDC Cup in Phnom Penh a couple of months ago. At the same time HAGL have expressed their intentions to invest in rubber, mining, and electricity, in addition to their existing iron ore concessions they already have in Cambodia. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours seems to be the order of the day as HAGL and Vietnam continue their expansion plans. The football federation here already have Vietnam-based Metfone on board as one of their main sponsors for the coming season.
Labels: Cambodian football, HAGL