Shopee Cup

Our target is to win the trophy: New Cong An boss Polking talks Shopee Cup™

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30 May 2024


After a very successful stint with the Thailand national team whom he guided to back-to-back AFF Championship titles, Alexandre ‘Mano’ Polking has returned to Vietnam to take charge of Cong An Hanoi and already set his sights on winning more silverware for the 2023 V.League 1 champions.

Since winning the historic league title last year under Tran Tien Dai, Cong An have seen the likes of Gong Oh-kyun and another Thailand legend Kiatisuk ‘Zico’ Senamuang assume control of the team with limited success, paving the way for former Ho Chi Minh City FC boss Polking to take over the reins last week.

Cong An look headed for a mid-table finish this season and also exited the Vietnamese National Cup in the Round of 16 at the hands of Viettel FC, but Polking is optimistic that the club can challenge for the title again next season – not just at home but also at the inaugural ASEAN Club Championship Shopee Cup™.

“The Shopee Cup is going to be a very important competition, especially because it will be the first tournament that we will be taking part in next season,” said the 48-year-old Brazilian head coach who has also managed Army United, Suphanburi FC and Bangkok United in Thai League 1.

Cong An are pooled with Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur City FC, Thailand’s Buriram United FC, Indonesia’s Borneo FC, Kaya FC of the Philippines and Singapore’s Lion City Sailors in Group B and will open their campaign against Buriram at home on August 22.

Group A of the tournament, meanwhile, will feature Malaysia Super League side Terengganu FC, Thai side BG Pathum United FC, Indonesia’s PSM Makassar, Vietnam’s Dong A Thanh Hoa FC and two winners from the qualifying round play-offs involving Young Elephants FC from Laos, Cambodia’s Svay Rieng FC, Kasuka FC of Brunei DS and Myanmar’s Shan United FC.

“We have a clear target going into the inaugural edition of the ASEAN Club Championship – that is to win that trophy for our fans,” Polking said. "I cannot wait to play the first game of the tournament and I am very much looking forward to facing Buriram which will be the opening game of the season for us,” he added.

The inaugural edition of the Shopee Cup will see 12 leading clubs from ASEAN split into two groups and face each other across five mid-week matchdays with the standings determined using a single round-robin home-or-away format, with clubs from the same country not meeting each other in the first stage.

The top two sides from each group will then progress to the semi-finals, which will be played on April 2 and 30, 2025 on a home-and-away basis followed by the two-legged final, scheduled to be held on May 14 and 21, 2025.

“The tournament is in a similar format to the AFC competitions. But what makes it different is that it is a regional tournament and an important step for the clubs in Southeast Asia to gain experience in terms of international matches,” said the Cong An head coach.

And Polking is hoping that his side can go all the way in the competition with the kind of talent he has at his disposal. Nguyen Quang Hai, Doan Van Hau, Ho Tan Tai, Bui Hoang Viet Anh and Filip Nguyen are just some of the star names Cong An have acquired in recent years in their bid to dominate Vietnamese football.

“The quality of the squad and the amazing facilities that the club have are definitely the key things that attracted me to this job. We do have a clear project here at Cong An and that is to make the club one of the best in Asia,” said Polking.

“I want to help the players become better and the club to become more professional in all aspects,” said Polking as he gets to work to create another title-winning team at Cong An with the first-ever ASEAN Club Championship Shopee Cup set to be one of the first platforms where his players’ resolve will be tested by some of the best oppositions in the region.

Photo: Cong An Hanoi FC