Sun, May 07, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Soccer academy rides wave of popularity

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Soccer coach Alan Walker, left, listens during a seminar at Shipai Junior High School in Taipei’s Beitou District last month.

Photo: courtesy of Master Football Academy

The local soccer scene is riding a resurgent wave of public interest with the national squad staying alive in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers and with eight clubs vying for the title in the inaugural Taiwan Premier Football League campaign this year.

Even government officials and legislators, now aware of the global reach of the beautiful game from their foreign travels and after following the FIFA World Cup and other major competitions, have voiced support for more funding and to initiate new programs to boost soccer development.

At a legislative committee session last week, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chiu Chih-wei and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Apollo Chen urged the government to revitalize its efforts to promote the game and to implement a “national strategic soccer plan.”

Calling on the Sports Administration and other government agencies to strive for concrete results, Chiu and Chen set the lofty target of Taiwan moving into the top 100 of the FIFA rankings within six years.

Taiwan are currently No. 161 in the FIFA rankings.

Most people involved in Taiwanese soccer, from the players and coaches to the pundits and fans, know that there are no shortcuts. The way to progress is to develop the game from the grassroots level, make more pitches available and to implement youth development programs throughout the nation.

Michael Chandler, originally from England, has been pushing in that direction with his children’s soccer programs at Master Football Academy (MFA).

As general manager of the academy, based in Taipei, Chandler works with fellow expatriates to offer coaching courses and regular competitions to children in various age groups.

“My goal is to do everything I can to help promote and develop the beautiful game in this country for future generations, including my own children,” Chandler said in an interview with the Taipei Times. “We have found great enthusiasm among many Taiwanese parents and youngsters for soccer, and the passion for playing the game is growing each year. Parents can see their kids developing good sportsmanship, teamwork, respect for others, and leadership on and off the pitch, but there is a shortage of soccer grounds, deficiencies in basic game facilities and a lack of coaching programs at schools, which has resulted in people who are interested, but have limited access and few opportunities to engage in soccer.”

Operating English-language soccer programs for children and bringing foreign professionals to train local coaches are among MFA’s major objectives.

Apart from hosting coaching clinics, the academy holds weekly coaching sessions and matches in the Taipei area, as well as organizing summer and winter camps around Taiwan and overseas.

As part of MFA’s mission, Chandler last month brought over two experienced soccer coaches from England, Alan Walker and his assistant Kevin Knowles, for a four-day “Coach Education Seminar” at Shipai Junior High School in Taipei.

A former Leeds United and Millwall player, Walker is considered one of the best soccer educators in Europe and is a former elite coach at the Kent Football Association, and he has taught some of the top coaches in the world, while Knowles is a UEFA A license coach.

Just last year, Walker taught courses that included former English Premier League stars Teddy Sheringham (Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and England) and Ronny Johnsen (Manchester United), among other famous ex-professionals.

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