A controversy is raging over the commentary on an Asian Football Confederation under-23 (U23) qualifying match by Freedom Sports, a live streaming match-reporting service, which left some fans upset and led to recriminations in Taiwan’s soccer community.
In the game between hosts Taiwan and Myanmar at the Kaohsiung National Stadium on Friday last week, a female commentator working for broadcaster Freedom Sports was said to be unprofessional, lacking relevant soccer knowledge and guilty of making several vacuous comments about Burmese players.
The reporter’s commentary spurred a barrage of complaints, and debate between irate fans, Freedom Sports officials and local media, who accused the woman in question of a “racist game commentary.” Some netizens said they would be reporting the incident to the Asian Football Confederation.
The reporter said: “Myanmar, we are not sure what kind of country that is... It seems like their players train by running on grass pastures all day long and digging up yams to eat.”
When the visitors took the lead in the 29th minute, she allegedly said: “They just scored a goal, finished by No. 6. What is his name? That is not very important.”
As it turned out, the Myanmar No. 6 player — 18-year-old Hlaing Bo Bo, who plays for FC Yadanarbon of Mandalay — was important and his name might be remembered by Taiwanese fans for some time, because he scored either side of the break, leading his team to a 3-0 victory over the hosts.
Hlaing’s brace damaged Taiwan’s chance of advancing. The home side had hoped to win the key opening match, as beating Australia, the top-rated team in the group, seemed unlikely. The U23 Socceroos indeed proved too strong for Taiwan, hammering the hosts 4-0 on Sunday.
The distasteful remarks by the Freedom Sports reporter served to highlight her unprofessional approach, lack of pre-match preparation, ignorance of the game’s nuances and stereotyped opinions, local soccer fans said.
Local Taiwanese media yesterday referred to a “game broadcaster in a perceived racism row against the Myanmar team.”
One soccer fan even set up a Web site titled “Say No to Racism — We strongly condemn racist commentary in soccer broadcasting” to publicize the incident and demanded an apology from the live streaming service company.
It was reported that the commentator on Friday apologized on air toward the end of the game, saying that she did not have an in-depth understanding of the game, was unable to do a good job and will likely not be doing soccer reporting in the future.
However, over the weekend, Freedom Sports took a tough stance on the issue, as company officials accused soccer journalists and netizens of sensationalizing the incident, saying: “The comments were only said in jest. We will still use the same set of broadcasters for upcoming matches — if fans do not like it, then people can do the live streaming reports themselves.”
A Chinese Taipei Football Association spokesperson said Freedom Sports is not the official authorized broadcaster for the Asian U23 qualifiers in Taiwan, that there was no official authorization given and that the public should appreciate the company investing money and resources to bring online live streaming services of these games for the fans.
Freedom Sports finally issued an official apology yesterday afternoon, saying: “Due to inappropriate commentary during the Taiwan versus Myanmar match, which upset some fans, we would like to apologize to all our friends. We hope all fans can continue to support Taiwanese sports, and take an active interest in the games.”
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