Leading the efforts to develop and popularize soccer in Taiwan is Lin Cheng-yi (林振義), who heads the Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA), the national soccer body. At 43, Lin is the youngest chairman in its history. He took the post last year.
“For this sport that I love so much, over the past 14 years, I have spent more than NT$10 million [US$330,000] of my investment money,” Lin said.
Lin said that he led the delegation for Taiwan’s U15 national squad, when they went together to China’s Shangdong Province for a tournament in 2005.
“It was very cold, near 0?C outside. However, our players were not wearing winter coats. I found out it was due to a lack of funding for the team. So I took them shopping, to buy winter coats,” he said.
Lin said he was taller than other students in his youth and studied taekwondo in school. In high school in Yilan County, his soccer coach picked him to play as goalkeeper because of his height. That began his passion for the game.
However, when attending Taipei City Sports Education College, Lin was on the reserve roster and had few chances to play. He quit the team and left the game for many years, concentrating on his education. He then developed a business and a successful career.
He is the chairman of New Taipei City’s Hangyuan Funereal Services Co, which backs the Hangyuan team in the MediaTek Intercity Football League, the nation’s top soccer competition.
He has returned to the game he loves as a team owner, and decided to run for the CTFA post last year.
“There was only six months in the run-up for the election. I was facing tough odds; the main competition came from Tsai Ming-hsing (蔡明興), who is chairman of TaiwanMobile (台灣大哥大), the telecommunications giant with deep pockets,” he added.
“I believe that to run CTFA, the person must come from the grassroots level. This person must know the real needs of Taiwan soccer at this time,” he said.
Lin said soccer is at a “decent level” in the nation.
“The major problem is disunity between factions in the sport. When making national squad selections, we are often unable to assemble all the best players,” he said.
Lin said his priority when taking the post was to smooth the contentious issues among soccer factions. After that comes developing the game at the grassroots level.
He gave an example from Vietnam’s U17 national squad.
“They picked 40 players from a base of 20,000. If Taiwan has soccer played at all levels, we can create more soccer talent,” he said.
If Taiwan would develop a professional league, Lin said he believes that five-a-side futsal is the most likely soccer variant to gain success, when considering game venues and financial sponsorship. It could be followed by women’s soccer and men’s soccer later.
“The basic tasks are to organize more competitions and support amateur clubs. However, the government must relax the regulations to provide better incentives,” he said.
“Take our Hangyuan Team for example. When we sponsor schools or civic organizations to organize sports competitions, our company can only make tax credit deductions of 10 to 25 percent. For most businesses, this is not a very attractive financial incentive,” Lin said.
Lin has put in a great amount of time and effort promoting the game as CTFA chairman.
“These days, the time I spend at my company is less than half of what I spend on soccer, but I still enjoy the work,” he said.