ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Soccer scene in Taiwan developing slowly but steadily
Publication Date : 24-06-2014
As the 2014 World Cup kicked off flamboyantly in Brazil last week, the monthlong international soccer tournament, which happens only once every four years, again attracted the attention of fans worldwide.
As one of the most popular international sporting events in the world, the quadrennial event garners an amazing global viewership that is only matched by the Summer Olympics.
About 3.2 billion people around the world, roughly 46 per cent of the global population, watched at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on TV in their homes, according to a Fifa report.
The number is only slightly lower than the number of people who reportedly saw at least a minute of the 2012 London Olympics, which stands at 3.6 billion.
The World Cup fever that is currently sweeping across planet Earth is so strong that even Taiwan, an island nation that is not known for its soccer culture, also feels its power.
Taiwanese people sacrifice sleep to watch live broadcasts in the middle of the night and one can see discussions about the World Cup on Facebook pages and in everyday dialogue even though the sport is not really very popular in the country.
In a country known for its love of baseball, soccer takes a backseat, with many fans calling Taiwan a “soccer desert.”
Most of the Taiwanese have little knowledge about the sport and only watch the World Cup because it is a “trendy” thing to do.
These “one-day” soccer fans comment on the sporting event with a newly acquired passion — not because of their love for the sport, but because of fashion.
There are good reasons to explain Taiwanese people's lack of knowledge of the game that is widely loved by most countries around the world.
One of the reasons for the sport's low popularity is that Taiwan's national team, of the 207 squads listed by the International Federation Association of Football (Fifa), ranks way down at No. 176.
As is cleverly pointed out by many local sports commentators, the only sport that Taiwanese people love is the sport that their national squad can win. So soccer has little presence on our list of favourites.
Also, due to time differences, most of the professional soccer games played in Europe are broadcast in the middle of the night in Taiwan. Most hardworking Taiwanese cannot watch the game even if they want to because they have to get up early and go to work.
With limited media coverage, the nation has little exposure to the game of soccer and thus they have neither the knowledge of the sport nor the passion for it.
But this does not mean that local soccer lovers have given up on promoting the sport in Taiwan. Hardcore Taiwanese soccer fans have been planting the seed of soccer on the island with the introduction of Chinese-language soccer magazines and publications.
TV channels have also been broadcasting professional soccer games despite their relatively low ratings, as many Taiwanese sports fans refuse to turn away from baseball and basketball — the two most popular sports in the country.
Local sports authorities have also been actively attempting to elevate the Taiwanese national soccer team's international competitiveness.
One of their methods is to recruit ethnic Chinese and Taiwanese players to play for Taiwan on the international stage.
Taiwan's soccer association has successfully recruited Xavier Chen, a Belgium-born Taiwanese soccer player, to join Team Taiwan.
Chen made his international debut for Taiwan against Malaysia on July 3, 2011, scoring the winning goal in front of a record-breaking 15,335 fans in Taipei.
This marked the first time in a decade that the national squad beat an opponent that was ranked in the top 150.
Though somewhat slow, the joint efforts made in both the private and public sectors over the years have been promoting soccer in the island nation, and the quadrennial international soccer festival is a perfect opportunity to make the game more well-known to Taiwanese to boost its development in the country.