Fri, Sep 15, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Officials outline plans for six soccer stadiums after tour by Japanese club

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Kuo-shu, fifth right, holds up a soccer jersey with representatives of Japanese professional soccer club Vegalta Sendai in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Cheng Hung-ta, Taipei Times

The nation’s sports officials outlined plans to build six soccer stadiums nationwide as part of efforts to establish a professional league following a visit by a delegation from Japanese club Vegalta Sendai to the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

The meeting with the delegation was arranged by Max Shih (石明謹), a sports commentator and honorary chairman of the Taiwan Football Development Association, and was hosted by Democratic Progressive Party legislators Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) and Lee Li-feng (李麗芬).

A number of government officials, including Sports Administration Director-General Lin Te-fu (林德福), attended the meeting.

Shih talked about the development of soccer in Japan, saying that Taiwan can learn from Japan’s experience, citing ongoing economic, cultural and sports exchanges between the two nations.

He pointed to the initial formation and management of Vegalta Sendai as a successful model for the Taiwanese soccer community to emulate.

Huang said that he wants to establish a bilateral exchange platform for the development of professional sports, adding that now is a good time, as the legislature has passed amendments to the National Sports Act (國民體育法).

Acknowledging that launching professional soccer clubs has met with difficulty and numerous obstacles in Taiwan, Huang said he would ask the government to focus on soccer, the world’s most popular game, and enable public-sector organizations to invest or sponsor teams.

The central and local governments must do more to promote the sport, Huang said, citing the Japanese club’s founding in 1988 with primary sponsorship by Japanese energy giant Tohoku Electric Power Co, with the Miyagi Prefecture Government holding a 24.9 percent stake in the club and the Sendai City Government a 23.5 percent share.

“The club became a focus of sports interest for Sendai residents, who became proud of the team’s successful performance and winning results in championships,” Huang said.

“Over the past few years, the club has been operating at a profit, which has had a synergistic effect on the local economy due to related commercial activities and tourism, with sports fans from elsewhere attending games in Sendai,” he added.

The government has committed NT$2.4 billion (US$79.7 million) under the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program for the construction of the six soccer stadiums, one in each of the nation’s special municipalities, Lin said.

Lin said the stadiums will help kick-start what he envisions as a true professional soccer league consisting of six professional clubs based in the six cities, with main sponsorship from their respective city governments and major corporations based in the regions.

The Japanese delegation hosted two training sessions for kids, one at Tainan’s Yonghua Soccer Ground on Wednesday and the other at the University of Taipei gymnasium yesterday.

The group from Vegalta Sendai, who play in the top-flight J1 League, were led by former Japan international Tomoyuki Hirase as its “soccer ambassador” and club president Yoshihisa Nishikawa.

Nishikawa said their first stop was Tainan, because it is Sendai’s sister city.

Sendai is the capital of Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Honshu Island.

The overall club’s structure consists of not only the men’s professional team, but also a women’s team, Nishikawa said, adding that it also has youth development academies for boys and girls at the senior-high, junior-high and elementary-school levels.

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