After creating a stir in Taiwan at last month’s Taipei Summer Universiade, the Dutch water polo team has remained in the spotlight as their fame has spread back home.
The 16-member team enjoyed instant fame even before they arrived in Taiwan on Aug. 15, after a photograph of the team in their Speedos was posted on the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office in Taiwan’s Facebook page.
Although the team failed to clinch a medal after finishing seventh, it became arguably the most recognizable foreign team at the Universiade among Taiwanese fans.
Considering that “water polo is apparently not a popular sport in Taiwan and not even in the Netherlands,” the Taiwanese public’s response to the post was “unexpected and overwhelming,” Dutch Representative to Taiwan Guy Wittich said in an interview with the Central News Agency.
The photograph was originally posted to attract attention and get Taiwanese to root for the Dutch team, Wittich said, but thanks to the post and the subsequent media reports that spread over online media, it has unwittingly brought fame to the team back home.
Members of the water polo team have been doing TV interviews and going on talk shows in the Netherlands after their successful public relations run in Taiwan, he said.
The team is extremely thankful for the media exposure that raised their visibility globally, because the team mainly depend on sponsors rather than government subsidies, he said.
“Thanks to the exposure, the team is expected to find sponsorships more easily as it gears up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games,” he said.
Another fringe benefit is that other Dutch national teams have also gained more media exposure, such as the fencing team, which was featured on the cover of the Taiwanese edition of Vogue magazine, he said.
The Dutch trade office has also benefited from the popularity of the team, with the number of likes on its Facebook page rising sharply from 3,000 to 14,000 in the weeks following the posting of the photograph, bringing more recognition to the office and the Netherlands in Taiwan.
The office’s Facebook followers prior to the Games were mostly businesspeople and companies, but the post helped it expand its fan base and reach ordinary Taiwanese, Wittich said.
Although the promotional photograph was only intended to boost the team’s and the Netherlands’ profile in Taiwan, it ultimately did more than that, he said.
“It helped to boost bilateral exchanges via sports and now people in Netherlands all know that sports in Taiwan are highly popular,” he said. “We believe the successful promotion of the team will help to generate more future sports exchanges between the two countries.”
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