Amid the popularity of box-office hit Kano, five youth teams from Taipei who tried to follow in the footsteps of the baseball team whose exploits are depicted in the film and play ball in Japan have had their hopes dashed.
Five junior-high school teams from Taipei have been invited by Japanese officials via the Taipei Municipal Athletics Federation (TMAF), a semi-governmental agency in charge of amateur sports, to participate in a baseball competition to be held in Miyazaki City in Japan in August. However, bureaucratic bungling and lack of funding for amateur-level baseball are blocking their participation.
Each team has to come up with NT$500,000 (US$16,530) for their travel expenses. The TMAF has appealed to the Taipei City Government’s Sports Department for assistance with the funding, but was met only with empty promises.
Ironically, Japanese officials have agreed to a subsidy of ￥500,000 (US$4,860) for each team.
“The movie Kano has aroused public interest in baseball, but amateur teams still face hardships and officials do not care about them,” said Hsu Fang-mei (許芳梅), principal of Taipei City Xingfu Junior High School.
“Youth baseball players are envious when they see other teams going abroad to play in competitions. They also want to perform on the international stage,” she said.
A local official said previously that the Japanese organizers would give the Taiwanese teams financial support for two days of hotel accommodation while they are playing in Miyazaki.
So far, only Xingfu have officially registered with the TMAF for the tournament, but school officials are still seeking donations to cover the cost of the trip.
A TMAF spokesperson said it would try to get five teams to go and would ask other cities and counties if they could send teams to participate.
The other schools included in the original invite have given up trying to raise the money.
“We do not have the resources to seek public donations, so we had to pull out,” Yangmin Junior High School principal Hung Chin-ying (洪金英) said.
“It is a good idea for kids to see the world, but do not expect us to send out a team abroad for competition,” Dali High School principal Kao Sung-ching (高松景) said.
An unnamed TMAF official said funding is a persisting problem and nothing has changed, despite its requests to address this issue.
He said Xingfu receives a NT$900,000 subsidy for its baseball program.
“However, the money is eaten up by equipment, travel expenses for local tournaments and coaching fees. The Taipei City Government only approves subsidies for coaching fees from May to November. The school had to hire two more coaches for the team at a monthly wage of NT$25,000,” he said.
Taipei City Councilor Lee Fu Chung-wu (李傅中武) said that such tournaments abroad should be elevated to “diplomatic sports exchanges representing the city” and that airlines and travel agencies should pitch in and help with travel expenses by providing discount fares, as it is their corporate responsibility.
In response, Ho Chin-liang (何金樑) of the Taipei City Government’s Sports Department said: “There are so many sports competitions and we have a limited amount of money from the government for subsidies.”