June 11 to June 17
A 13-year-old Chou Tai-ying (周台英) was sitting on the sidelines when Hsia Tsui-feng (夏翠鳳) broke away from a swarm of defenders, launched the ball from 25 yards and scored the winning goal. The home crowd of more than 25,000 jumped up and cheered as the “Mulan” soccer team captured Taiwan’s first female soccer championship during the 1977 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) women’s cup.
Three years later, Chou led the team to another AFC championship, leading all players with five goals, and was named tournament MVP.
Photo courtesy of National Central Library
The team’s glorious decade was marred by political disputes over Taiwan’s political status — including using the name “Mulan” because it couldn’t compete under “Republic of China” — but it continued to win battle after battle, including a third AFC gold in 1981.
But all good things come to an end. The team has not won another AFC medal since it finished second in 1999, and failed to even qualify for the past three tournaments. It’s male counterpart, also once the hottest team in Asia, is ranked 121st in the world today. As the FIFA World Cup kicks off on Wednesday, this week’s Taiwan in Time takes a brief look at the times when Taiwan was considered Asia’s “soccer kingdom.”
HONG KONG ANGLE
Photo courtesy of National Central Library
Taiwanese fans were ecstatic about the 1977 win as it had been a while since Hong Kong-born “Asian King of Soccer” Lee Wai-tong (李惠堂) led the men’s team to two consecutive Asian Games championships in 1954 and 1958, defeating powerhouse South Korea both times.
Lee first coached the Republic of China team during the 1948 London Olympics, and kept his allegiance toward the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) after its retreat to Taiwan in 1949. But the success of those teams largely depended on Lee’s connections in Hong Kong.
Chuang Ting-chen (莊庭禎) writes in the book, The Development of Football in Taiwan after Social Changes in 1970 (1970年社會變遷後台灣足球運動的發展), that “before Taiwan started training its own players, the national team completely relied on Hong Kong mercenaries recruited by Lee during major international games.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The team made it into the 1960 Olympics, and Hong Kong star Mok Chun-wah (莫振華) scored Taiwan’s first Olympic goal ever. The squad had a shot at a third straight championship in 1962, but the Indonesian hosts refused to issue visas to the Taiwan and Israeli teams due to political reasons.
After capturing two more championships at Malaysia’s Merdeka Tournament in 1963 and 1965, the team’s glory days came to a halt in 1971, as Hong Kong stopped allowing its players to play for the Taiwanese team due to the rise of professional soccer in Hong Kong as well as the decline of Taiwan’s international status.
The team would not win another international championship until December last year, in a self-hosted tournament facing three low-ranked opponents.
Chou, who today serves as the head coach of National Taiwan Normal University’s women’s soccer team, suddenly found herself a celebrity during her third year in high school. Not only did she kick off the year with an AFC championship and MVP selection, she was named Best Offensive Player at a summer invitational in Los Angeles with a team-record 12 goals in four games.
Chou attended Taichung’s I-ning High School, whose soccer team members made up the backbone of these Mulan squads. It was grueling training, as she would bike more than 10km to school for 5am practice, attend classes and finish with another afternoon practice.
As the team prepared for the AFC tournament in 1981, Sports World (體育世界) magazine ran a long feature on the team, introducing every player and quoting coach Kao Yung (高庸) as saying, “We should have no problem defending our championship.”
Chou performed brilliantly, scoring 10 goals — more than half the team’s total — as team Mulan beat Thailand for its third straight gold medal. Chou was nominated for Sports World’s female athlete of the year, naming her “Goddess Legs” (女神腿) and “Magic Feet” (魔腳).
The team’s run in the AFC was interrupted when China joined the confederation and Taiwan’s team applied to transfer to the Oceania Football Confederation, picking up where they left off by winning it all in 1986 and 1989.
Along with the name Mulan, this miraculous team’s success also came to an end with its return to the AFC as Chinese Taipei in 1989. Although it hovered between second and fourth place until 1999, it won no more championships, and Taiwan’s status as a soccer power was no more.
Taiwan in Time, a column about Taiwan’s history that is published every Sunday, spotlights important or interesting events around the nation that have anniversaries this week.
When Auntie Su (蘇) was evicted from her apartment last Monday, locals were so overjoyed that they sent thank you wreaths to the Tainan Police Department. “Justice has been served.” “Punish villains and eradicate evil,” read some of the notes. “Thank you, hardworking police for bringing peace and quiet back to Tainan!” a neighbor posted on Facebook. Auntie Su is a notorious “informer demon” (檢舉魔人), someone who is known to excessively report violations either for reward money or — depending which side you’re on — to serve as a justice warrior or a nosy annoyance. Usually they are called “professional”
In Taiwan’s foothills, suspension bridges — or the remnants of them — are almost as commonplace as temples. “Suspension bridge” is a direct translation of the Chinese-language term (吊橋, diaoqiao), but it’s a little misleading. These spans aren’t huge pieces of infrastructure. The larger ones are just wide enough for the little trucks used by farmers. Others are suitable for two-wheelers and wheelbarrows. If one end is higher than the other, they may incorporate steps, like the recently-inaugurated, pedestrians-only Shuanglong Rainbow Suspension Bridge (雙龍七彩吊橋) in Nantou County. Because torrential rains hammer Taiwan during the hot season, the landscape is scarred by
With his sugarcane juice stall at Monga Nightmarket (艋舺夜市) floundering due to COVID-19, things took a turn for the worse for Lin Chih-hang (林志航) when he was furloughed from a part-time job. The crowds are trickling back to this nightmarket in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), but Lin is now so busy that he has hired a friend to run his stall. As the sole driver of the night market’s delivery service, established on April 12, Lin takes on an average of 20 orders on weeknights and over 60 on weekends, with his father helping out when he is too busy.
Eslite Gallery will hold an open house at their new gallery tomorrow in Taipei’s Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. The doors to the new space will open at 4pm and will feature works by local and international artists. As a nod to the ongoing pandemic and Taiwan’s handling of it, the gallery also announced a project called Artivate, calling on 12 of its artists to emblazon details from their artwork on cloth masks. Participating local artists include Jimmy Liao (幾米), whose illustrated books with simple stories about people coping in the modern urban world have become hot sellers across Asia, and