Diary: Taiwan’s Finest Ninety Minutes?

Football (known as soccer in America, because most Americans don’t know what football is) doesn’t play a great role in Taiwan. It’s so unknown there that the “Chinese Taipei Football Association”, i. e. Taiwan’s football association, doesn’t even run an English-language website, even though its history, originally under the name of The Republic of China Football Association, dates back to 1924.  It entered the Féderation Internationale de Football Association (better known as FIFA) in 1954, and helped to establish the Asian Football Federation with other Asian countries.

Taipei Stadium, Deaflympics 2009 (中文维基百科, click on picture for source)

Taipei Stadium, Deaflympics 2009 (中文维基百科, click on picture for source)

In the process of countries from Japan to the US switching diplomatic recognition to China, Taiwan’s football association “obtained” FIFA permission to change its name to Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA), and it returned into the Asian Football Federation in 1989 (一九八Ο年獲國際足總同意更名為中華台北足球協會,一九八九年重返亞洲足聯會籍) – no mention of the political backgrounds on the CTFA’s website. “Chinese Taipei” is the usually name under which Taiwan is tolerated, as a participant in international sports events, given Chinese diplomatic pressure on international organizations to keep Taiwan’s profile low.

As soon as in 1976, Taiwan faced Chinese pressure in the international sports arena. Holger Obermann, who had been imported by the Taiwanese football association as a national coach in 1975, remembers how the country’s Olympic team was booted out of the 1976 Olympics qualifiers. China  had successfully lodged a protest at the International Olympic Committee in Montreal.

Taiwan remains as far away from a world soccer qualification, as Germany is from a global baseball championship, Obermann mused in 2009.

But while the Olympic team’s situation may be bleak, it isn’t necessarily  hopeless. At the first leg against Jordan last month, in the qualifying process for the Olympic Games in London in 2012, Taiwan’s Olympic soccer team lost against their Jordanian hosts, by 0 – 1. It could have been much worse:

Jordan dominated the majority of the match at the King Abdullah International Stadium but could only muster an 83rd minute Khalil Baniateyah effort to show for their efforts while Chinese Taipei coach Chang Sheng Ping will be pleased to have left Amman having conceded just one goal,

the Asian Football Federation wrote on its website. Prior to the qualifying game, the Taiwanese team had faced difficulties as their training venue in Jordan wasn’t in good shape, and they had only one opportunity to walk across the actual playing field once, familiarizing themselves with the location, the CTFA website wrote on February 23. Jordanian Football Association secretary-general Khalil Al Salem (阿薩蘭) reportedly apologized for the problems at the training field, which had been caused by irregation problems, due to lacking water.

Some of the better-known players are Zhang Han (張涵, striker), Chen Yu-lin (陳俞霖, left-back defender), and Chen Yi-wei (陳毅維, a midfielder, or defender). Chang Sheng-ping (張生平) is the Taiwanese Olympic team’s head coach. The CTFA website has a page with the complete 2011 Olympic team.

The team’s history – it participates both in the Asian Games and in the Olympic Games, internationally – isn’t even known to Wikipedia (English) in every detail. It apparently has a history of not having qualified for Olympic Games since 1964, but was actually an Asian Games champion both in 1954 and in 1958.*)

Klaus, a German reporter in Taiwan, is determined to show up at the second leg of the Olympic team’s qualifying game against Jordan, at the Taipei Stadium, on Wednesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. (about opposite of IKEA’s furniture shopping center, where Nanjing Road and Dunhua Road join each other –  台北田徑場, 南京東路 and 敦化北路, apparently). He asks every foreigner in Taiwan (or at least in Taipei) to join him, to vocally support the Taiwanese team, and to turn the game into Taiwan’s finest ninety minutes to date.

FIFA does a bit more than the CTFA to make Taiwanese football known internationally. They provide some – even if not always realtime – information on a webpage dedicated to “Chinese Taipei”.

But defeating Jordan on Wednesday could make the real difference.

*) [March 9, 2011] There’s a footnote to those victorious occasions in history, as pointed out in this comment: the star players on those teams were actually Hong Kong residents, hired by the Republic of China, Taiwan. The Taiwanese started to build their own team – consisting of members of mainland refugee families and old Taiwanese families – in the 1970s, according to one of the coaches of the times, Holger Obermann.


11 Responses to “Diary: Taiwan’s Finest Ninety Minutes?”

  1. Funny you should put up a football piece, since (believe it or not) I recently bought a tv to facilitate my interest in the game. Trying to choose a team at the moment, so listen to the African experts on BBC’s Football Have Your Say when awake in the witching hours. One thing is certain, It won’t be Arsenal, Chelsea or Man U. Will probably opt for Millwall or West Ham due to their illustrious history of fan violence.

    Some footnotes. Morozow is indeed a bit depressing in his analysis, putting paid as he does to technological triumphalism and cyber utopianism. I feel pretty comfortable with the main thrust of his argument, that being that we should not forget that the possibilities offered by cyberspace are very much contrained by each social formations political realities (being a good post-Marxist).

    Equally importantly, Russia, Iran and China are far ahead of the West in terms thinking about the internet. While all three approach the net in different ways, they commonly view the net as a new intrument rightly belonging to the machinery of govt/political power…a new social terrain to be experimented with, surveilled and shaped by opinion guiding techniques.

    On top of that, Morozow is one dynamite writer. Not bad for someone who is only 27 years old.

    I liked your rationale for running a blog. I would like to have my own, but lack the tech skills, and am certain that I couldn’t feed the monster on a regular basis. (Anyway, I suspect my short-lived career as a poster is finishing soon. Moving to a deep rural location.)

    Finally, Granite Studio had a nice turn of phrase on week three of the Jasminist PRC revolution – “burning out Chinese security”


  2. Anyway, I suspect my short-lived career as a poster is finishing soon. Moving to a deep rural location.

    Nothing against moving to a deep rural location. I’m living in one myself (but still within the big Bremen cable tree). But you can’t stop commenting! Je te défends! (Btw, many bloggers feed their monster less frequently than I do – you could still restart one.)

    Read the piece on Granite Studio. How did he put it? Kafka-esque. And the government response is starting to take on the cat-piss stench of fear when in reality it has little to be afraid of. (Maybe the government knows better?)


  3. JR,

    This is about the 1954 and 1958 Republic of China teams that won the Asian games. Please note that the star players on those teams are actually Hong Kong residents. During those days, Hong Kong had a lively semi-professional football league. The best Hong Kong players represented the Republic of China and often constituted 10 of the 11 starters. Why? Because the Republic of China paid them a lot more! The Hong Kong team consisted of the lesser players.

    In 1971, the practice was discontinued.

    For further details, see zh.wikipedia (in Chinese)


    Players such as 姚卓然、林尚義、張子岱 and 黃文偉 were my childhood idols when I grew up in Hong Kong in the 1950s/1960s.


  4. Whatever was founded in 1924, it obviously has nowt to do with Taiwan. The first serious athletes in the island’s modern history, like Zhang Xing-xian (張星賢), competed for Japan.



  5. Oh, fascinating info. btw Roland! Shame my Chinese isn’t up to the task.


  6. Thanks for the info, Roland and James! Holger Obermann, one of the former Taiwan coaches, mentioned the Hong Kong residents playing as a Taiwanese /RoC team, too.
    Kind of shanzhai, I guess, but given that the RoC probably claimed Hong Kong, just as did the PRC, the Taiwanese football board and the political leadership probably found that hiring practise quite natural – at least for a while.


  7. Will you be along tonight JR? A few of us will definitely be there as it’s opposite our office.


  8. I’d love to, James, but I’m in Germany, and I guess that I won’t get there in time. But I hope there will be many, and that it will be a real football event.


  9. Ah, OK – well we’ll have a fe beers for you while cheering the lads on. Was having a look at your about section but didn’t find much out. Quick q. if you don’t mind: Are you German and what do in Taiwan? Cheers.


  10. I’m only allowed to write this blog as long as I’ll refrain from publishing home stories. That’s why there is so little “about me”. I’m doing nothing in Taiwan. I’m living and working in Germany, but I used to work in China, and have been to Taiwan, too.
    When there next time, I’ll let you know, so maybe we can have a few beers on a – hopefully victorious – Taiwanese football event then.
    If you can let me know about how the game went last night, I’d appreciate, as it would save me the trouble to do my own research tomorrow.



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