Sat, Dec 04, 2004 - Page 16 News List

We're not futsal crazy

While the five-a-side games at the 2004 FIFA Futsal World Championship have been good, there have been criticisms of the host country's organization

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Brazilian fans cheer on their team.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

While FIFA acknowledged that low attendance figures were to be expected when it selected Taiwan over more football/futsal savvy countries like Iran and Thailand to host the 2004 FIFA Futsal World Championship, it probably didn't expect the host nation's football association to have major organizational problems.

Within the opening days of the competition a series of administrative and clerical errors and a barrage of bad press had already marred FIFA's impressions of the Chinese Taipei Football Association's (CTFA, 中華台北足球協會) organizational prowess.

Responsibility for FIFA's ire should not solely fall on the shoulders of the beleaguered soccer association. Even before the competition kicked off on Nov. 21, politics and money had already raised their ugly heads and put its success in question.

Instead of taking the opportunity to exploit the potential media coup that goes hand-in-hand with hosting an event sanctioned by one of the world's largest and certainly most influential sporting organizations, the government opted to take a back seat.

According to a CTFA source, who requested anonymity, the choice of Taipei as the event's base was a major factor in the central government's choice not to give it full support. It was afraid that any overt financial backing of the event would be misinterpreted as support for the city's Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Mayor, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

"[The Central Government] was more than happy to fund the construction of a NT$7.5 billion stadium in Kaoshiung, which is DPP-run, in order to host the World Games in 2009, but it wasn't going to give us a dime because of Mayor Ma," said the CTFA insider.

The Central Government's sole contribution to the event was made in January, when the National Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (NSPFS, 行政院體育委員會) presented the CTFA with NT$15 million. The soccer association was expected to cover the event's costs, as well as creating a national futsal squad from scratch, hiring coaching staff, organizing training programs and promoting futsal in schools nationwide. All with the limited subsidy.

In order to supplement the NSPFS's support, the CTFA secured financial backing of NT$13 million from the Taipei City Government, much of which was used to ensure the venues met with FIFA standards.

Additional funding from local sponsorship deals and from the CTFA's own coffers meant that the soccer association had a budget of NT$30 million to stage the event.

The soccer governing body paid all travel and accommodation costs of FIFA officials and members of all participating teams.

"Everybody knows that Taiwan is not a soccer- or futsal-friendly environment. And obviously to be able to stage a sporting event like this successfully was going to take a lot of work, both organizationally and financially," said Chang Chan-wei (張展維), general secretary of the CTFA. "We've never hosted an event of this scale before and problems arose because we weren't supported as much as I would have liked."

According to the NSPFS, the official reason behind the government's reluctance to subsidize the CTFA with an amount in excess of NT$15 million was due to the association's non-disclosure of its finances. This is something that Chang and the CTFA deny, stating that they have been more than open with their financial situation.

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