Two young Taiwanese soccer players will have the opportunity go to Germany this summer, where they will be able to meet with Bayern Munich stars such as Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Manuel Neuer, and get some coaching.
The “Football-for-Life” program is a collaboration between the Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) and Allianz Taiwan, a German insurance and financial services company.
The selection of Taiwanese soccer players aged between 14 and 16 is being held on May 25 at Taipei’s Bailing Soccer Field in Shilin District, to the north of Bailing Bridge.
According to a spokesperson at Allianz Taiwan contacted by the Taipei Times, six players will be selected to represent Taiwan and they will the travel to Thailand for the Asia region’s “Football-for-Life” summer camp from June 28 to June 30.
“The Taiwanese players will join participants from other Asian countries at the football camp in Thailand, to vie for final selection — an invitation to a six-day camp in Munich, Germany, in August, where they will get to meet the stars of Bayern Munich and be coached by the club’s youth team coaches,” the spokesperson said.
“Out of the six Taiwanese representatives chosen in the Asia round in June, two will be invited to Germany. Therefore two Taiwanese players are guaranteed spots at the six-day Bayern Munich training camp,” she added.
The spokesperson said the Taiwan round is open to girls and boys, and the deadline for registration is May 16. Information on how to apply can be found on the company’s Web site at www.allianz.com.tw.
According to the information on the Web site, the six Taiwanese players chosen for the Thailand camp and then the two selected to travel to Bayern Munich will have all their accommodation and traveling expenses paid by the program’s main sponsor, Allianz.
Taiwan was added to the program last year. In 2011, 52 teenagers from 16 countries traveled to Germany, and 63 teenagers from 21 countries participated last year.
One of the highlights of the program last year was that the participants got to meet Bayern Munich stars such as captain Lahm, as well as Germany internationals Schweinsteiger and Neuer.
In related news, the CTFA recently announced that a new foreign assistant coach is on the way from one of England’s top clubs to help train Taiwan’s junior players.
The CTFA said it hired Judan Ali to travel to Taiwan. Ali is a junior team coach with Blackburn Rovers, English Premier League champions in 1995, when Alan Shearer played for the Lancashire club. Rovers were relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season and now play in the second-tier Championship.
“We have invited Judan Ali to help develop our youth players, as part of our national juniors program. Ali was recommended to us by a friend of mine who works in English professional soccer,” CTFA secretary-general Wang Sheau-shiun said
Ali is an ethnic Indian, born in London’s East End, and as a teenager he was an emerging young soccer talent who had a spell as a trainee with Arsenal, training and playing alongside Gunners legends such as Ray Parlour and Paul Merson.
However, according to some British media reports, he had a somewhat checkered sporting career, as Ali had trials with 32 professional soccer clubs in the UK, but failed to clinch a contract as a professional. He has cited racist attitudes in Britain during the 1980s and 1990s for his failure to break into the professional game.
Eventually, Ali joined Spanish second-tier club Real Murcia and after his playing career ended, he took up coaching jobs in India.
According to a CTFA statement, Ali was a pioneer, the first Asian player who tried to break into top-flight soccer in Britain and that “currently Ali is being cultivated by the English Football Association as a potential future coach for professional clubs.”
The CTFA said Ali’s life story was adapted for the 2007 Bollywood movie Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal, in which he played himself. The film was based on Ali’s experiences as a British youngster with an ethnic-minority background trying to overcome the many barriers in British professional soccer.
“I have discussed the job with Ali. He and I have common visions and similar goals. We believe Taiwanese soccer can shine on the world stage. Our first goal is for the Taiwan national junior squad to make it to the finals of the under-17 FIFA World Cup in 2019. The other goal is for Taiwan to produce 10 top-level international players in the next 10 years,” Wang said.
“I am very happy that Ali has chosen to come here, to help our national soccer program. We also want to thank the many international organizations who assist behind the scenes and help support Taiwan’s soccer development,” he said.