How to develop soccer in Taiwan

  • By Chiu Chih-wei 邱志偉

The FIFA World Cup has once again sparked Taiwan’s “soccer spirit.” As the number of viewers reached a new record, the same questions were asked again: What is Taiwan’s future in soccer? When will team Taiwan advance to the World Cup?

As early as 2017, the Sports Administration proposed a strategy titled “Six-Year Soccer Plan 2018-2023: Pursue the Soccer Dream, Advance into Top 100.”

However, Taiwan’s world ranking has fallen from 124 to 157.

Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) wrote on Facebook that he once proposed sending talented young Taiwanese to Brazil’s soccer schools to be trained as professionals. Unfortunately, the idea was abandoned partly because of the political climate of the time.

It is true that the overall training conditions and environment for soccer in Taiwan are not comparable to those in Europe, and Central and South America.

Yet it is confusing that, while many athletes have trained overseas, Taiwan’s soccer players are not treated the same.

Take Taiwanese baseball players for example: Although most players train at home at the beginning, better ones tend to build their careers in Japan or the US, but they play for Taiwan at major international games, and return to their home country to coach young talent upon their retirement. That way, their knowledge and experience is passed on to the next generation.

This approach of developing baseball players could be applied to soccer players.

A good start would be to invite top coaches and teams from Asian countries to Taiwan. Arranging such exchanges would enable Taiwan to become familiar with the intensity and tactics of actual matches.

Competing against other Asian teams instead of alone would also be beneficial. By inviting international coaches and players to Taiwan, or by sending Taiwanese coaches and players abroad, the national soccer team would gain the public’s attention. If these matches were broadcast, more entrepreneurs and corporations would notice the Taiwanese audience’s passion for soccer and would be willing to invest in it.

The virtuous cycle would lead to a positive outcome.

However, before soccer is promoted at home, the regrettable lack of venues for soccer matches and professional training must be addressed.

In the past few months, the public has paid great attention to the poorly constructed Hsinchu Baseball Stadium, but has devoted little attention to the maintenance of local soccer fields. This of course has to do with the public’s low interest in domestic soccer.

By building soccer fields in line with international standards, not only would Taiwanese players be able to enjoy the best training environment, it would be easier to improve the overall quality of soccer in the nation.

Once the venues are ready, Taiwan should show an interest in hosting international tournaments. As of now, it only has experience in organizing regional international competitions. If major international tournaments can be organized at home, more attention would be given to soccer development and players in Taiwan. This would unite Taiwanese in their support of the team and turn soccer into a national trend.

To reach that goal, the most realistic problem must be dealt with: The professional soccer league is not a stable sports business. As demonstrated by Japan, a strong national soccer team is founded on its country’s professional soccer leagues.

Although there are the Taiwan Football Premier League and the Taiwan Football Challenge League, the number of teams and their sponsors are low.

To develop professional soccer leagues in the long term, the government should provide preferential tax measures for corporations to encourage them to invest in professional soccer teams, just as is done for professional baseball leagues.

With this policy and resources, Taiwan’s soccer players could train in a better environment and plan their careers more soundly.

Chiu Chih-wei is a Democratic Progressive Party legislator.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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