The road from Wigan Pier - Taipei Times
Tue, May 01, 2018 - Page 13 News List

The road from Wigan Pier

Taiwanese soccer fans were aghast when Tim Chow was left out of the national team for a recent game against Singapore. Speaking exclusively to the ‘Taipei Times,’ Chow gives his side of the story and talks about how a lad from the north of England came to love Taiwan

By Tony Phillips  /  Contributing reporter in London

Tim Chow in November last year shows off his Taiwanese passport, which enables him to play for the national soccer team.

Photo: CNA

As trips to play in an international soccer match go, Tim Chow’s (周定洋) must rank as one of the more unusual. All the more so because, having traveled from the chilly Highlands of Scotland to the humid hills of Taipei to make his eagerly anticipated home debut for the national team, he was told he wasn’t playing.

Chow’s journey into the Taiwan side has been long and tricky. The 24-year-old, who plays for Ross County in the Scottish Premiership and is eligible for selection for Taiwan through his grandfather, is one of only two first-team regulars from the upper echelons of a European soccer league to have played for the national side.

The other one is Brussels-born Xavier Chen (陳昌源), who made his international debut in 2011 while at Belgian side KV Mechelen. A third player, Will Donkin of English Premier League side Crystal Palace, has also played for Taiwan recently but has so far only played for his club's Under-18 team.

The introduction of the likes of Chow, Donkin and Chen, as well as the appointment of English head coach Gary White, have helped propel the national team to its best run of form in years. Midfielder Chow is the sort of player around which further success could be built.

LONG JOURNEY

His grandfather Chou Yong-kang (周永康) was born in Shanghai, China, and lived in Ningbo before moving to Taiwan. A merchant seaman, he ended up in the English port city of Liverpool where he met and married Chow’s grandmother, Betty.

Although his grandfather passed away years ago, Chow remembers him well.

“My fondest memories are going to his house and finding him in the kitchen. He was a fantastic chef,” Chow says.

Joining his local club Wigan Athletic at the age of 10, Chow made his first-team debut in April 2015, subsequently signing for Ross County in 2016.

He was only 17 when the prospect that he might one day play international soccer became apparent after Taiwanese soccer agent Ginola (吉諾拉) contacted him and suggested he consider the possibility of following in the footsteps of Chen and play for Taiwan.

The two kept in touch, but it wasn’t until last year that Chow, along with his father, was able to visit Taiwan for the first time.

“Straight away the two of us were blown away ... It was like love at first sight.”

Making the decision to play for Taiwan was much easier for Chow than the process of obtaining the ROC passport that would turn his dream into a reality. Hunting down documentation pertaining to his grandfather and submitting the relevant paperwork proved an onerous task.

However, after help from, among others, then-minister of foreign affairs David Lee (李大維) and Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), he received a call in October last year telling him to get to the Taipei Representative Office in London as soon as possible to pick up his passport.

His eligibility to play in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier in Turkmenistan the following month was confirmed just in time and Chow duly made his international debut in Balkanabat. He describes it as the proudest moment of his career, no idle claim for someone who has played for the club he supported as a boy and has appeared in front of 50,000 fans in Scottish Premiership fixtures at Celtic and Rangers, two of the giants of the British game.

“As a child all I dreamt of was becoming a professional footballer. I sacrificed everything to put myself in this position and now I was walking out of the tunnel representing my country for the first time,” he says. “To say I feel grateful is an understatement.”

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