More Polish Robs, less leeches – CTFA and DPP dispute is a battle for Taiwan’s football future

Taiwan’s football association commonly known as the CTFA (Chinese Taipei Football Association) was supposed to hold elections for board directors and overseers on March 17th. In what should have been a straightforward process of voting for and selecting the candidates has developed into a full dispute between DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) legislators Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳), Chung Chia-Pin (鍾佳濱) and Hsu Chih-Chieh (許智傑) and The football association’s vice chairmen Kong Yuan-Kao (龔元高) and Liu Fu-Tsai (劉福財). The DPP legislators accused the CTFA representatives of forging documents to block people they’re backing from standing for positions within the CTFA. The disagreement began when a list of candidates who could not participate in the elections was revealed and Chiou I-Jen (邱義仁), Liu Fu-Tsai and Kong were listed among them.

With both parties recently attending an arbitration meeting which we are told lasted for five hours. However, no consensus was reached in the meeting with no solution met. Since the meeting ended both parties have written to FIFA seeking advice on how to resolve the situation (the irony) and FIFA have responded by stating they will send its member associations regional director for Asia and Oceania, Sanjeevan Balasingam, and its manager for member associations, Luca Nicola, to Taipei from April 18th–20th.

The reason for the dispute is down to the current government – the DPP who are trying to avoid previous sports association’s controversies by making them become more democratic. There was the controversy around the Olympics with tennis player Hsieh Su-wei (謝淑薇) wasn’t allowed to take a coach to the competition. Nepotism which is so rife in Taiwan reared its ugly head when the top university swimmer Mitzi Ting (丁聖祐) wasn’t selected for Taiwan’s Universiade team but she pointed out that the two high school swimmers were selected because the father of one of them is a swim coach with connections in the CTSA and the father of the other is a friend of the CTSA head coach. The ice hockey association were involved in a controversy when they made the U18 Taiwan team pay for their own flights to Sofia, Bulgaria, but later asked the players for all receipts so they could apply for a government subsidy.

The examples I have listed are just a small sample of news regarding controversies involving sporting associations in Taiwan, the news is littered with examples of graft, fraud, blackmail, throwing games, and other various levels of cronyism and cost-cutting to the detriment of athletes and the national team's performance.

Taiwanese football has been in the doldrums for years without any sign of progress until recently. The CTFA in the past have been correctly slated for gross mismanagement and being completely hopeless, useless and rudderless while having no clear direction for taking football forward. Suddenly, out of the blue something clearly changed at the CTFA because they started to show signs of progress from the middle to the end of 2017.

The signs of progress started to become more apparent under previous manager Kuroda who secured an away win in Singapore which would have been previously unheard of. The pace of the progress was hammered up to maximum speed with the appointment of Gary White, what followed from him becoming manager of Taiwan has been nothing short of phenomenal. Taiwan has not lost a game at home since he was put in charge, defeating Laos, East Timor, the Philippines, Mongolia, Bahrain and Singapore. Reading those teams out on paper may seem like an easy task, but keep in mind that Taiwan had previously found it a mighty struggle to defeat any team in a competitive game regardless of how easy it sounded on paper. The only blip was a valiant defeat away to Turkmenistan, but if Taiwan were capable of better finishing that result would have been very different.

What often is the case in Taiwan, is that not many people show any interest in attempting or trying to develop anything or try to improve any kind of sporting facilities, participation levels, or even try and generate any kind of interest. That is until the small dedicated number of individuals who are extremely passionate about their sports have strived, fought and worked as hard as they can to bring about improvements and interest in a game that they love, wish to play or even hope to someday represent Taiwan on the international stage. Once the hard work of dedicated people has paid off, then from nowhere the people I like to term leeches appear in an attempt to attach themselves to your hard work for their own benefit.

My original firsthand experience of this happening albeit on a much smaller scale, was when the local expat league had no pitch to play their league games on. Polish Rob who is now Royal Blues manager found some land in a local park that wasn’t developed to be used for anything, so he dedicated his own time to pushing the government to create a football field in Yonghe. Without his hard work, this pitch would have never materialized, once other leagues, teams and associations found out he had created a new pitch they decided that they now wanted to use it. The league openly tried to share with the other leagues to make sure that everyone was able to use, but instead of sharing the facilities that someone had worked hard to create the other associations used their connections to kick us off the field and book it for their own needs – they would even book in for weeks they knew they didn’t need it just in case they changed their mind.

As an outsider with no connection to the CTFA or any other sports association we cannot tell which side of the argument wants to develop football, and which side of the argument is only there for their own vested interests until the dispute is over we won’t know who is the ‘leech’ and who is ‘Polish Rob’. What we are willing to say though, is that even though the current president has a checkered past; he has still been in control during Taiwan’s most successful period where they have achieved the best results and performances in recent history.

Right now Taiwanese football is in a very good place, in fact, it is in the best place it has been for many years. This dispute between the CTFA and DPP legislators threatens to destabilize the excellent progress which has been made if the wrong person comes out the winner and that could see Taiwan plummeting back into the football wilderness.

The only hope for Taiwanese football right now is that the person with genuine interest in developing and promoting the sport, and the local league wrestles control of the association over to the guys who have pushed for the recent progression. This is a bigger fight for the future of Taiwanese football than people will realise, Taiwan needs more Polish Robs involved, not the leeches.

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