Details of Hoang Anh Gia Lai's Arsenal Academy

Vietnam football took a big step towards a better future in football when V-League club Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) signed a partnership with English Premier League club Arsenal, the ASEAN Football Federation website commented. The Ho Chi Minh City-based club will build a football academy in Tay Nguyen, in the Central Highlands, with Arsenal pledging to improve HAGL's revenues via sponsorship, membership, ticketing and merchandising avenues.

"This is a great chance to help Vietnamese football catch up with international football - we are very excited about the opportunity," said Doan Nguyen Duc, the president of HAGL club. "The first candidates will be chosen from April in Vietnam as well as from all over the world with the first training course scheduled to run in September."

Costing some US$ 4 million, the construction of the Arsenal Academy in Gia Lai province will begin on a five-hectare complex with the financing to come from both HAGL and Arsenal. The academy is situated around 10km from Pleiku City and will have two training grounds, 30 double rooms as well as dining rooms and a health club.

Academy players from 12-years-old will be provided with free training, food and lodging with the additional draw of a high-quality education and English study. Each course will open every two years with a maximum 20 players and will run for seven years.

These 20 players - 16 Vietnamese and four foreigners with two each from Ivory Coast and Laos - will be selected from 10,000 to 15,000 potential candidates based on Arsenal's standards and requirements. Arsenal will also invite HAGL technical staff to its training centre in Hertfordshire to study training methods and in turn will send representatives to Vietnam as further exchange.

Arsenal chief Keith Edelman is convinced Vietnam's Hoang Anh Gia Lai will be regarded as one of the world's most famous clubs in the not so distant future. "We believe HAGL provide the perfect partner to guide us through the nuances of the country, culture and business opportunities," said Edelman. "HAGL will be very famous at that time and be known in many parts of the world. We are proud that we will be the first major European club to make a genuine impact here at all levels of football."

Arsenal will also use the partnership as an opportunity to further develop club-related marketing and merchandising initiatives along with community outreach soccer school activities in Vietnam.

Even though some quarters may have felt that Vietnamese players are a tad too small to take on players from other countries, Edelman felt otherwise. "Many talented football stars are not big but are still fit enough to compete," he added. "We are delighted to have found a partner who shares the same goals as us - to develop the local game at all levels and help provide foundations for the club to have a genuine presence in the region.

"We recognised that Vietnam is a country full of love for football and we are delighted to have found a partner who shares the same goals as us - to develop the local game at all levels and help provide the foundations for the club to have a genuine presence in the region. We aim to train players for European football. Therefore, these players will help to increase quality of Vietnamese as well as Asian football in the near future. We believe that there will be some Asian football stars which will emerge from the academy."

The academy is based on the successful model of Arsenal JMG academy operating in Thailand and another in the Ivory Coast where famous players Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue live. After seven years of football and academic training at the centre, some of the graduates could be sold to European clubs.

"Training will be completely free of charge for the seven years and their parents will receive 10% of their transfer fees after graduation," added Duc. "To ensure the development of our football team, we have submitted our request to build a new modern stadium with 25,000 seater in Pleiku City to local authorities. If accepted, construction will start next year," Duc added.