Taiwan football embarrassed by poor promotion

Chiu Yi-jen, the director-general of the Chinese-Taipei Football Association, felt embarrassed attending the FIFA congress in Munich recently. "Foreign football officials asked me: 'We cannot understand this. Since money is not a problem for Taiwan, why don't you do more to promote football?'" Chiu told the Republic of China's Central News Agency. "They pointed out that among countries whose per capita GNP is above US$10,000, Taiwan's football ranking is the lowest," he said. Chiu's conclusion: Taiwan must do more to promote football - specifically, professional football.

Taiwan is 156th in FIFA's world rankings, more than 100 places below neighbours Japan (18), South Korea (29) and also far behind the Peoples Republic of China (68). Sports analysts say the government, holder of the world's third-largest foreign currency reserves after China and Japan, has not been keen to promote the sport. Taiwan's Education Ministry promotes football in schools, but last year's physical education budget of 480 million Taiwan dollars (US$14.6 million) was down by half compared to 2001.

That trend has many Taiwan sports teachers feeling pessimistic about the sport's future. "To promote soccer, we must start from primary schools and organize soccer contests between primary schools," Lee Chun-Jung, a sports teacher at the Chung Cheng Industrial High School, told David Chang of the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. And Chao Jung-jui, a professor at the National Taiwan College of Physical Education, said professional football teams are urgently needed.