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Manager banned for five years after women's team walk off pitch

Phong Phu Ha Nam have been fined and their coach banned from football after they walked off the pitch in protest over a penalty awarded against them in a match of the National Women’s Football Championship in Ha Nam Province.

Phong Phu Ha Nam players ignore referee Tran Thi Thanh who tries to convince them to return to the match. Photo of VFF

They were fined VND50 million (US$2,200), while head coach Nguyen The Cuong was banned from all Vietnam Football Federation activities for five years and fined VND5 million ($220). Captain Tran Thi Hong Nhung was suspended for the rest of the first leg of the season, equal to two matches.

All the other players were given a strict warning and their opponents HCM City 1 were awarded a 3-0 win.

In the 89th minute of the match on Tuesday, hosts Phong Phu Ha Nam were drawing 1-1 against defending champions HCM City 1.

After a corner came in and was half punched clear by the goalkeeper, Phong Phu Ha Nam defender Tran Thi Lan Anh bundled into HCM City striker Tran Thi Thuy Trang when challenging for the ball.

Referee Tran Thi Thanh awarded HCM City 1 a penalty, causing an angry from the hosts before they left the field.

Despite persuasion from Thanh and VFF officials board, the team with three national team players refused to play on.

About 30 minutes after that, Thanh blew the whistle to end the match.

Speaking to reporters, coach Cuong said he accepted the loss and Phong Phu Ha Nam refused to play on due to what they saw as repeated mistakes from referees, beginning from the start of the season.

In the opening match against Thai Nguyen T&T on September 22, Phong Phu Ha Nam players complained the referee disallowed what would have been the winning goal near the end of the game which ended 3-3.

After watching a video of the HCM City match, former head of the VFF’s Referee Council Doan Phu Tan said Thanh made the correct decision.

Pham Hai Anh, director of Ha Nam Province’s Sport Training and Competition Centre, which manages the club, said his team were wrong to walk off the match and coach Cuong did not do enough to calm his players down to cool them down.

According to the centre, assistant Pham Van Hai will replace Cuong while midfielder Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dung will captain the side.

“It is clear that this situation strongly affects the tournament and national football. It is a fact that they have not been a professional team but we could not ignore the responsibility of the team managers and leaders. We decided to deliver severe bans,” said Vu Xuan Thanh, head of VFF’s Discipline Department.

The punishment is the strictest ever levied on a Vietnamese women’s club.

VFF General Secretary Le Hoai Anh said clubs should train their players on ethics and attitude during competition.

He said "football is a very competitive sport and unexpected outbursts can happen, but reactions against rules should be eliminated".

He said the heavy punishment given to Phong Phu Ha Nam aimed to warn other players. 

In 2017, V.League 1 side Long An were punished severely for unsporting behaviour in a match against HCM City.

After conceding a penalty in the 79th minute with the score at 2-2, Long An players walked off the pitch in protest. They were convinced to return to the field five minutes later.

Apart from cash fines for both the team and individuals, they were also suspended from VFF football activities for three years for interrupting the match, disrespecting the referee, violating the responsibilities of clubs in professional Vietnamese football and damaging the reputation of Vietnamese football. VNS

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