Fri, Jul 07, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Send kids to Brazil for soccer training: Chen

BALLSY In his latest weekly e-newsletter, the president suggested that Taiwan send promising young soccer players to the home of the `Selecao' for long-term training

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yang Tzu-yi, a player with Tongan Elementary School's soccer team in Taoyuan County, yesterday shows a picture of himself taken at an international youth tournament in Sweden last year, where Yang was elected most valuable player.

PHOTO: CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday floated a plan for a most unlikely goal: making Taiwan one of the world's top 32 soccer teams by 2018.

"I realize that Rome was not built in a day," Chen said in his latest weekly e-newsletter. "But please don't forget, our Hungyeh Junior Baseball Team [an Aboriginal school team from Taitung County famous for its achievements several decades ago] used sticks to bat with and substituted stones for balls when they were young. If it were not for Hungyeh, there wouldn't be any [New York Yankees pitcher] Wang Chien-ming (王建民)."

Chen proposed that promising young players be sent to Brazil for long-term training.

"A-bian [Chen refers to himself in the third person by this nickname] would like to propose that the government select 20 healthy and talented players younger than 10 years old and provide them with US$10,000 a year (NT$320,000) to send them to the best soccer school in Brazil and train them for 10 years," he said. "The total expense would not exceed US$2 million. When they graduate, we'd help them get into the world's best professional soccer teams. Our goal is to see Taiwan make it to the world's top 32 teams by 2018."

In FIFA's latest rankings, Taiwan was placed 156 in the world, below Vanuatu, Burundi and Grenada.

Chen said he was inspired by the semi-finals of the World Cup and the success stories of South Korea and Japan at the previous tournament.

"I was overwhelmed by the supporters of Korea and Japan in the 2002 World Cup. They waved their national flag and cheered for their own country," he said. "Korea and Japan were not strong teams in soccer but they have been in the world's top 32 teams since 2002."

Soccer was once popular in Taiwan, Chen said, but it was never as popular as baseball.

Four years ago, when the World Cup was first held in Asia, co-hosts South Korea and Japan advanced to the knockout rounds, with South Korea reaching the semi-finals.

Chen said he not only admired their accomplishments but also wanted to see Taiwan's national team make an impression.

"It makes me think that if they can do it, so can we," he said. "We should not set limits for ourselves."

"I hope we can someday hold our national flag to cheer for our team at the World Cup," he said.

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