Chinese Taipei

Football in the time of COVID-19: Chinese Taipei


Taipei: Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, on the weekend of the 11th and 12th of April, football returned to East Asia with the 2020 season kick off of the Chinese Taipei Premier League. We spoke to two young stars from the men's and women's teams of top-flight side Hang Yuan FC to get their views on playing in one of only a few active domestic football championships in the world.

Highly rated 20-year-old midfield prospect Wu Yen-shu, who idolises Ronaldinho and Son Heung-min, and Hang Yuan FC Women's captain Chen Ying-hui, 21 and a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo and Chinese Taipei veteran Lai Li-chin, revealed their experiences, hopes and goals for this season in an exclusive interview with the-AFC.com.

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The 2020 season kicked off recently at a time when most leagues in the world are currently suspended, how is the experience of playing in one of the only leagues currently active?

Chen: I am delighted that the league can still be carried on without being affected by the pandemic, even though there’s additional rules and regulations to be followed to ensure we can play in a safe environment. But that is necessary so the league can kick off as scheduled.

Wu: We have to appreciate the hard work of the healthcare frontliners, their effort to control the pandemic has allowed the league to carry on. Even though the matches are behind closed doors, being a player, we should be grateful as we can still do what we love freely during this hard time.

Was there any differences from your usual matchday experience?

Chen: For the prevention of COVID-19, all of us need to fill up health declaration forms and check body temperatures before entering the stadium. Although the first round of the league was behind closed doors, we could still feel the encouragement from our fans who are supporting us by watching live broadcasts.

Wu: As I am still a university student, the biggest difference I experienced was actually the intensity of the game. There is obviously a difference in terms of level between the Premier League and the Intercollegiate Athletic Games. Professional players have a very strong mindset during the game, so it is challenging for me.

How aware are you of the extra attention and media coverage around the world? And for Chen: The Mulan League is possibly the only women’s football league currently playing right now. How much additional responsibility do you feel?

Wu: Yes, I am aware of the media coverage. With most of the international leagues postponed, perhaps it is our time to promote our football to the world. We can use this opportunity to introduce our teams and players, that would help develop our football industry as a whole.

Chen: I am excited and definitely looking forward to playing. This is our highest standard women’s league where we can prove our ability and improve our skills. As the captain, I ought to perform my best to bring the team together and win the match.

What are the realistic goals for Hang Yuan this season – individually and as a team?

Chen: I hope I can personally help the team to win every match. Hopefully, we can finish in the top three this season.

Wu: We finished third for three consecutive years, and even though we have maintained our position there’s been no breakthrough. In my opinion, to win the title, we have to enhance our teamwork and tactics. We may not have the strongest attack, but our team consists of good quality players who can work together to win any game!

Which important players should we look out for in your league this season and which players specifically from your club?

Chen: Inter Taoyuan midfielder Chen Yen-ping. And from my team would be our defender Chen Chiao-yi.

Wu: I would say Taichung Futuro’s defender Yugo Ichiyanagi (below). He has played in the J.League previously and from his style of play to his experiences, I find him a threat. And from my team it would be Aveska from Haiti. He played in the Argentine league last season, he is very strong physically and mentally, he will have an important role in our defence.

Who do you think are your main rivals this season in the league and why?

Chen: Taichung Bluewhale as they have been the champions for the last three consecutive years.

Wu: I see Tainan City as our biggest rival, they have a strong attack and will be a difficult team to play. Our defence will need to be on top of their game to keep their forwards at bay.

Have you seen any growth in the game at home in recent years?

Chen: There is an obvious increase in the population who watch women’s football; that is a positive move and a big encouragement to us.

Wu: Football here has been gaining more attention from the government, in addition to the good results in the recent years, the number of players has also increased, all of these bring positive development for the sport. I hope this phenomenon can impact more people to bring football into their lives, also bringing joy and hope to them.

There have been some good results in recent years on the international front; what do you feel the main steps Chinese Taipei needs to take to go to the next level?

Chen: I can see there are improvements in all aspects, but we need to improve at a faster pace in order to provide a better environment for the players. We are in this together; I believe by having everyone work collaboratively, we’ll able to achieve something great in the near future.

Wu: As a football player, we cannot be satisfied with the current good results, we should always aim for more improvements and achievements. Football is not just a sport, it also brings hope to people. I hope we can introduce ourselves internationally through football.

And finally, where do you see yourselves in 10 years, and where do you expect to see Chinese Taipei football in 10 year?

Chen: I wish I can contribute more to the football industry in 10 years. And I hope the football scene here will be in a greater position in 10 years and can reach out to a wider audience internationally.

Wu: In 10 years, I hope I still have unlimited passion for football. I also wish to be playing in other leagues to gain more experiences. Perhaps, I would be a football coach too. Most importantly is never forget why I started playing football. Of course I hope football will provide a better environment for those who are involved in the game. This requires all of us in the industry to work hard together, starting now.

Photos: Chinese Taipei Football Association, Hang Yuan FC

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