Tue, Dec 11, 2007 - Page 20 News List

FEATURE: Why can't Taiwan host a soccer tournament?

SHAMEFUL Taiwan last year won the right to host the AFC Challenge Cup, but embarrassingly lost the event because it could not meet the confederation's standards

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Zhongshan Soccer Stadium is pictured during Taiwan's Asian Cup qualifier against South Korea on Aug. 16 last year. The Asian Football Confederation has said that the stadium does not meet international standards.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CHINESE TAIPEI FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION

Taiwan has recently hosted two successful international baseball tournaments, but has had no such luck with soccer.

Last month, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) decided to revoke the nation's right to host next year's AFC Challenge Cup because Taiwan failed to guarantee that it would meet the Asian governing body's standards for the 16-nation tournament.

Instead, Thailand will host the event, the winners of which qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup finals.

Lin Der-chia (林德嘉), secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA), told the Taipei Times that Taiwan and Pakistan had initially competed for the right to host next year's Challenge Cup.

In November last year, having considered each country's qualifications, the confederation had awarded hosting rights to Taiwan.

However, Lin said that in February two FIFA inspectors suggested that the facilities at the Zhongshan Football Stadium in Taipei be revamped. These included the lighting system, generators and scoreboards, he said.

Lin said the CTFA passed these suggestions on to the Taipei City Government, the administrative authority in charge of the stadium. According to Lin, the city refused to comply because it said it had "difficulties meeting such high standards."

In October, Lin said, AFC representatives returned to Taiwan to check on the CTFA's progress.

In addition to the Zhongshan Stadium, the AFC this time toured the Taoyuan Stadium.

Unlike Zhongshan, Taoyuan Stadium is not a designated soccer stadium. As a result, the AFC requested modifications be made to bring it up to standard for the Challenge Cup. In addition to the scoreboards, AFC officials asked that the field be modified to meet international soccer standards and that the shower facilities be improved.

These requirements met with objections from the Taoyuan City Government, he said.

"They basically told us that they were willing to rent us the stadium, but we shouldn't expect them to spend a dime on it," Lin said.

In a statement issued on Nov. 30, the CTFA said that the AFC had also requested a practice stadium with facilities matching those of the stadiums used to host games.

Clare Kenny Tipton, director of the AFC's Media and Communication Department, confirmed the two inspection tours had taken place. However, she said the request to increase the size of the soccer pitch in one of the stadiums had been made on the first visit.

"During the second inspection visit this [request] was reiterated. No commitment was received that this would happen," she said. "Therefore, the stadium requirement for the Challenge Cup 2008 could not be met."

Tipton said that the AFC's decision did not mean that Taiwan was precluded from hosting future competitions.

Hsiao Shi-kai (蕭士凱), an official at the Taoyuan City Government's Education Bureau, said the CTFA had sent an official request some time between October and last month asking to use the stadium to host the tournament.

Hsiao also said that the CTFA had requested the city government allocate funds to renovate Taoyuan Stadium, without specifying the items that needed to be addressed.

He said the CTFA had also requested to meet with the city's education bureau chief to discuss the matter, but the appointment was canceled and never rescheduled.

The CTFA said in the Nov. 30 statement that "it is beyond the association's capacity to improve the facilities of the soccer stadiums."

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