Legendary Spanish soccer club Real Madrid might visit Taiwan for the first time in August, the company that is arranging the trip said yesterday.
While organizers said the team’s visit would contribute to Taiwan’s international publicity, tourism and the Taipei International Flora Expo, some sports administrators worry that the event may draw political opposition, particularly if the Spanish squad plays with an all-star team composed of Taiwanese and Chinese players, instead of a native one during the visit.
Spanish powerhouse Real, who toured Asia in 2003 and 2005, are scheduled to play a friendly match in Beijing on Aug. 8, and Taiwan hopes to host another leg of the team’s Asian visit.
Real Madrid are scheduled to play an exhibition game at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium to commemorate the second anniversary of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
“In principle we have obtained the support of our partner organizing the Beijing visit,” said Elephant Ching, president of Taipei-based Dot Han Integrated Marketing Co.
“If we reach an agreement, the Spanish team will travel to Taipei on August 1 and play on August 4,” Ching said.
The visit will cost about 3 million euros (US$4.3 million), and the company will seek financial assistance from the government, he said.
“This is a large amount of money, but it would definitely be worth it as it’s sure to boost the image of Taipei internationally,” he said.
Ching told the Chinese-language China Times that Real Madrid’s Asian tour would have just two stops, and that Japan and Vietnam have been working hard in hopes of becoming the second stop.
The club, who have star players including Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo in their squad, are expected to decide the second host city of the Asian tour late next month, Ching said.
As the Beijing organizer maintains cooperative ties with Dot Han, Taiwan may have a chance, Ching said.
“It is a very rare and precious opportunity for Taiwan to host a star-studded premier soccer team,” Ching said, adding that he hoped Taiwanese would pool resources to make the “dream come true.”
Chinese Taipei Football Association deputy secretary-general Chung Chien-wu said that the association would be pleased to have Real Madrid visit to help inspire local interest in soccer.
He also hoped that Real Madrid could play against a local team in Taipei.
If they were to play against a cross-Taiwan Strait all-star team, the event could draw politically motivated criticism, Chung said.
Sports Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chen Hsien-chung said the council welcomed Dot Han’s plan to invite the world-renowned team to Taipei.
“We hope local business groups can offer financial support to help realize the plan,” he said.