This year, the FIFA World Cup has once again reignited Taiwanese’s passion for soccer and while some fans are content watching other national teams’ performances on TV, some enthusiasts are trying to build up the sport in Taiwan in the hopes of one day participating the tournament.
Taiwan-based Da Li Bu Group president Hsiao Jui-fen (蕭瑞芬) has tried to cultivate a cadre of soccer players in Greater Taichung over the past decade, bringing some life to a country some local players have called a “soccer desert.”
Hsiao’s efforts may be the main reason for the Greater Taichung soccer team winning the national sports competition last year, and while many could find “Da Li Bu Group” on a soccer jersey unfamiliar, it is one of the main reasons for the rise in the number of players.
A decade ago, Hsiao used his resources to establish multiple teams at elementary and high schools in a bid to ensure that player development would not be put on the back burner. He also launched the international Da Li Bu Super Soccer Competition in 2005.
Soccer coach Ho Chi-ming (何基銘) said Hsiao played as a forward in junior and senior-high school, and has spoken of how the sport teaches one how to endure hardships, work hard, be a team player and be responsible.
These same principles are employed in business; one must be responsible, make every effort to complete all tasks successfully and be able to work well on a team, Ho quoted Hsiao as saying.
However, establishing a soccer team takes more than just passion for the sport — it requires financial support, Ho added.
Over the years, Hsiao has never refused any funding requests as long as they promote soccer, lending support to anything from training players and hiring coaches to building playing surfaces and player dorms, Ho said, adding that Hsiao once hired 11 coaches to cover all the schools in Greater Taichung.
Yeh Hsien-chung (葉獻中), a coach who was on the Da Li Bu payroll for nine years coaching at Greater Taichung’s Huiwen High School, said Hsiao always helps players having problems in school or at home.
Most of the players come from disadvantaged families and Hsiao devotes himself to helping them change their lives by performing well at school, Yeh said.
“While most companies endorse sports activities for financial gain, Hsiao is the opposite,” Yeh said, adding that the businessman attends games without pomp or fanfare, and very seldom makes speeches if a team he endorses wins something.
Hsiao has always hoped that soccer will become a more popular sport in Greater Taichung and is on the path to building a professional team that could eventually contest international games, Ho said.
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