by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: 中華民國足球協會CTFA/Facebook

TAIWANESE FEMALE professional soccer players have been left in a lurch after the Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) abruptly announced that training plans for the athletes would come to an end on November 3rd. Training had been ongoing since 2021, but players were informed that the training plan had come to an end suddenly on November 9th.

Reportedly, the CTFA did not submit a training plan to the National Sports Training Center (NSTC), which was what led to the end of the training. This occurred despite reminders by the NSTC for this to take place.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the Taiwan Women’s Football Player Association (TWFPA) criticized the CTFA for its negligence, while thanking the NSTC for its reminders. The football players were in the process of training for the East Asian Football Federation at the end of November, having not qualified for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

Furthermore, the CTFA has not paid players for their appearances since January. The TWFPA also serves as the union for women’s soccer players.

The TWFPA has stated that training must continue and that it does not want to have to start from zero in terms of training, as occurred after the 2018 Asian Games. As such, the TWFPA hopes for training to continue for the East Asian Football Federation and for plans to be made for future competitions such as the 2026 Asian Games and 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Likewise, the TWFPA called for delayed payments to be made, for advance notice so that players can plan ahead of time, and for the Sports Administration (SA) to be more attentive to the CTFA.

Facebook post on the matter by the Taiwan Women’s Football Player Association

The SA, in turn, responded that it would continue to support female soccer players, praising accomplishments such as qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, though requesting the CTFA to submit a training plan as soon as possible.

The series of events regarding female professional soccer players perhaps illustrates the complications of professional sports in Taiwan. Taiwanese sporting associations have long been accused of being host to nepotism, corruption, and fraud, even when athletes represent Taiwan on the international stage and are an object of national pride. Sporting associations that govern various sports are accused of lacking transparency and being controlled by a small set of influential individuals, who typically use their position to benefit friends and relatives, or even to extort athletes.

In the past, during the authoritarian period, sporting associations were used as a sinecure position for those close to the KMT. Oftentimes sporting bodies are seen as having ties to KMT officials, who were appointed during the authoritarian period, then, have remained in power ever since, and continue to have the power to decide who represents Taiwan in international sporting events. As with the broader pattern of political corruption on the part of KMT officials, KMT officials are accused of using their position to reward those close to them, as in awarding contracts to companies that they have ties to, or to solicit bribes. The Control Yuan has even cited instances of athletes being coerced into sleeping with officials, using their positions of power.

As such, athletes have alleged irregularities over the choice of those to represent Taiwan in international competition, with athletes chosen on the basis of family ties to judges or influential sporting figures, while top-ranked athletes are passed over, or charged exorbitant fees in order to participate in international competitions. Otherwise, athletes have spoken up over being housed in substandard accommodations during travel, while officials have more luxurious accommodations. Athletes who have spoken up have reported punishment, such as being made to wear uncomfortable attire during competitions from corporate sponsors or being blocked from attending some competitions.

Such problems may continue, then, as seen in the recent challenges faced by female professional soccer players in Taiwan. While political candidates–particularly youth-oriented candidates–have sometimes vowed before the election to reform sporting bodies in Taiwan, this has largely not taken place to date. It may be that such issues remain deeply rooted in sporting bodies in Taiwan or that candidates are unwilling to take action once elected for fear of offending the politically influential and powerful.

No more articles