Thu, May 30, 2002 - Page 14 News List

Soccer's showpiece fails to inspire Taiwanese

NOT INTERESTED Taiwan is one of the closest countries to the World Cup hosts this year, but the people living here could scarcely seem less interested in the tournament

By Jules Quartly  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Brazil will keep winning, China will lose all its games and the World Cup will fail to make much of an impression in Taiwan. That's the feeling on the streets of Taipei.

Though Taiwan is one of the closest countries to hosts South Korea and Japan, the vast majority of Taiwanese will be content to stay at home and watch some highlights on TV.

Just 200 tickets for the World Cup were given to the Chinese Taipei Football Association and though special flights have been laid on for the tournament, demand has still been lukewarm at best.

A ticket agency representative in Taipei said on Tuesday there were seats on Cathay Pacific to South Korea, return, for NT$13,900, and to Tokyo for NT$9,400.

Ten Chinese Taipei Football Association chiefs will be attending the opening ceremonies on June 30.

Lin Ming-hua (林明華), the owner of a shop selling watches in Taipei, summed up the apathy Taiwanese have for soccer.

He recently visited South Korea and even went to the soccer stadium in Seoul. But, "I went just for the fun of it, not for the soccer," he said.

China is making its World Cup debut this year, but Lin seemed to feel no affinity for the team from across the Strait. "They will not stay long," he said.

Asked whether he would be proud as an ethnic Chinese if China did well in the competition, Lin said, "They are not Chinese, we are."

As for gambling, many Taiwanese, along with the rest of Asia, are betting on Brazil because of its World Cup pedigree, according to a recent survey carried by news agencies.

"Any sport has gambling, like baseball, but I do not think there is a lot of it going on," said Kevin Kang, who often travels to China on business

He said he did not have a clue about China's chances at the World Cup, but was aware it would be competing.

"They are probably better than Taiwan but I have no idea how they compare with other countries," Kang said.

Thai restaurant owner Cho Ming-fu (桌明褔) said, "I really like soccer, but most people prefer baseball and this is what they know about and what they bet on."

Though betting is illegal in Taiwan many bettors go online, though traffic has not been heavy from Taiwan.

The re-emergence of baseball after betting scandals in the late 1990s and the recently introduced lottery has hurt business.

Michael Bristow, a BBC broadcaster in Taiwan, said, "If they [Taiwanese] do support a team it's the glamour teams, like Brazil, Argentina and so on.

"But even so there is a residual pride in being Chinese and there are some people who, if China do well, will be pleased because it will reflect well on all Chinese people wherever they live.

"Even if people do not overtly support China it does not mean that they would not be proud if China did well."

Bristow said not many Tai-wanese followed the game because they did not play it much.

"I don't think there's a lot of interest in soccer in Taiwan. It's mostly baseball and basketball."

Thai restaurant owner Cho said his six-year-old child did not play soccer as he had "many important tests at school."

"In Taiwan sport is a problem because playing is not work. We do not like much exercise and we do not have much time," Cho said.

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