Hundreds of fans have packed more than a dozen outdoor beer bars in Tainan City, their eyes glued to the TV screens broadcasting this year's World Cup soccer tournament.
Meanwhile, in Taipei, many restaurants have also been trying to ride the World Cup fever by setting up big-screen TVs to show live broadcasts and attract customers.
Media coverage of the tourney has increased dramatically in newspapers and on TV news since May, and thousands of fans have been staying up to watch late-night live broadcasts since the tournament began on June 11.
The phenomenon is unusual in the “soccer desert,” as Taiwan is called by local soccer fans, because soccer is a minor sport in the country, where baseball and basketball are most popular, and the national team ranks way down at 167 in the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) world rankings.
Taiwanese cable television operators carry limited soccer broadcasts of the top divisions such as the English Premier League and the European Champions League, but the ratings do not fare well because of a lack of interest and the time difference.
That is why it's surprising that World Cup matches have received such success in Taiwan, where a 1.0 television rating is usually considered “above average” for any program.
“TV ratings for almost all the 10pm games have surpassed 2.0, with a peak rating of 2.4,” said Su Chi-hui, a producer at Era Television, which is carrying this year's World Cup competition.
Su added that most of the games airing at 2am have registered ratings of at least 0.8 percent.
“Keep in mind that those ratings were just for the group stage games, because the latest ratings have not yet been announced,” he said.
Viewership has been much better than the last World Cup four years ago when it was held in Germany, he said, adding that TV ratings at that time did not exceed 2.0 until the knockout stage of the final 16. Su said he expected the ratings to be even higher in the later stages of this year's cup.
However, die-hard soccer fans who regularly follow the game dismissed the phenomenon as “four-year soccer madness,” saying that the fad — including the extensive media coverage and high TV ratings — come and go quickly.
World Cup fever has become a norm, but is not related to the development of the game, local fans said.
“Actually, it's not that unusual. We've seen this pattern every four years. It happened in 2002 and again in 2006, when almost everyone was talking about soccer for one month. It's happening again this year,” said Clement Tsai, a soccer fan. “The next thing you know, no one cares about the sport once the World Cup is over.”
Despite the disgruntled fans, soccer fever has hit the nation on almost every front. And Taiwan is not just an observer on the sidelines, with local textile manufacturers supplying products made from recycled materials for nine of the teams this year, according to a recent report in EP magazine.
Brazil, the Netherlands, Portugal, the US, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Serbia and Slovakia are all wearing Taiwan-made articles, made from 13 million recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.
Off the pitch, meanwhile, Taiwanese politicians have not missed out on the most talked-about feature of this year's World Cup — the vuvuzela, a raucous plastic horn blown by fans that has become a symbol of South African soccer.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) took notice of the trend and picked up the instrument at a June 26 rally in Taipei to protest against the government's plan to sign a trade agreement with China.
Acknowledging that the 200 vuvuzelas he bought were made in China, Gao was quoted by Agence-France Presse as saying: “We'll beat them with their own medicine.”
At the same time, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators who favor the trade pact have described signing the agreement on Tuesday as “scoring a goal.”
For Taiwan to establish itself as a soccer power to be reckoned with rather than a country that just cheers from the sidelines during the World Cup, it needs to build up a soccer culture and develop players in all age groups, said Lin De-jia (林德嘉), secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Soccer Association.
“This takes time, patience and hard work,” he said. “The fact is, our government does not pay enough attention to this sport.”
TOO TIRED: Investigators found that the pilot’s lack of alertness could be attributed to a lack of sleep the previous night, when he had slept with his child It was a copilot’s inappropriate operation of the aircraft and the pilot’s insufficient alertness that led to a hard landing of a China Airlines cargo flight on Dec. 13, 2018, the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board said yesterday. Flight CI6844, a Boeing 747-409 which departed from Hong Kong International Airport, landed on the pre-threshold area of runway L5 at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, about 21m before the head of the runway, an investigation report said. The hard landing damaged three runway lights, but none of the personnel on board sustained any injuries, the report said. When approaching the runway, the copilot failed to maintain
DISTRUST WARRANTED? The WHO is under China’s control and has become a useless organization, while data from China cannot be trusted, a Control Yuan member said China’s demand that the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, Hubei Province, not be referred to with names like the “Wuhan pneumonia” betrays its lack of confidence in itself, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told lawmakers yesterday. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) asked Su, during a interpellation at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, for his view on China’s attempts to redeem its national image in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included China’s efforts to “bleach” its image, including having WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus publicly praise its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and thanking it for buying time
REPEAT OFFENDER: The man went outside for exercise on Wednesday and then left his home on Saturday with his girlfriend, officials said A New Taipei City man has been fined NT$400,000 (US$13,221) and ordered into government quarantine after breaking home quarantine for a second time on Saturday. The 25-year-old man, surnamed Chen (陳) returned to Taiwan on Sunday last week and was ordered to home quarantine until Sunday. He was seen leaving his home on a scooter with his girlfriend on Saturday, three days after he was fined NT$200,000 for going outside to exercise, police said. Chen has now been placed in a quarantine center arranged by the district office and health center of the district where he lives, police said. Police warned the public
Taipei residents who stay at hotels in the city during their 14-day mandatory quarantine period are eligible to apply for the city’s NT$7,000 subsidy, with online applications to be launched next week. Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) on Monday said Taipei residents who have COVID-19 Health Declaration and Home Quarantine Notice dated after March 19 and a quarantine hotel receipt for the dates covered by the quarantine period, would be eligible for the subsidy. The Taipei City Government on Sunday told the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) that so many city residents are under home quarantine that about 90 percent of