Languishing in 156th place in FIFA's world rankings, Taiwan is clearly in need of some help on the soccer front. So, with the agreement of the local sports association, qualified instructors from an English Premier League club were in Taiwan over this past weekend to conduct football coaching and training courses.
Alan Walker and Mark Newson, two English Football Associaton-qualified coaching instructors from West Ham United Football Club, put participants through the paces at a training session on a soggy pitch at Taipei City's Dajia Riverside Park on a drizzling afternoon yesterday.
Earlier on Saturday, Walker and Newson gave lessons on sports injury, emergency aid, child protection, CPR procedure, and game preparation to 40 football enthusiasts who signed up for the three-day coaching course.
The idea was to provide training to players from Taiwan and the expatriate community interested in becoming football instructors and coaches so that they can go on to teach youngsters and school kids.
On completion of the three-day program, the 40 participants receive a Level-1 coaching certification, the equivalent of the same FA coaching qualification in the UK.
Having received approval from Taiwan's Chinese-Taipei Football Association, the program was arranged by the Taipei-based Master Football Academy which is working to bring the world's favorite game to local kids of different age groups.
Speaking to the Taiwan News, Mark Newson related his role as a "coach educator" who works with the coaching staff at community and county clubs associated with West Ham.
Both Newson and Walker are English FA-approved instructors for coaches, and have also received "A-license" coaching certification from UEFA, European football's governing body.
"We want to help develop football skills in Taiwan, and get more children interested. It is important for the kids to have fun and enjoy the game," said Newson during a break from the training session.
"The course work involved different modules on how to treat sports injuries, how to warm up and cool down, organizing the team, along with health and safety aspects," Newson said, describing the components of the course. "We also go through the instruction on football techniques, basic skills, and how to teach team playing and interacting on the field," he explained.
Asked about his impressions of Taiwan on his first visit to the island, Newson said, "It has been fantastic. The students are very enthusiastic and are very much willing to learn. It had been pleasure to teach the course here."
Still minor league
But Newson said that it was clear that football was not yet a big time sport here, as most children could not even identify any famous players, with the exception of the ubiquitous David Beckham."
Michael Chandler, one of the main program directors of the Master Football Academy, said this training course for coaches will enable more people to get involved with teaching football at schools and at community level in Taiwan.
Chandler said that the Master Football Academy was working hard to actively promote the "beautiful game" to the general public and youngsters here in Taiwan, and that Taiwanese friends and expats of many nationalities were assisting the MFA's efforts.
And he said the FA-approved Level-1 coaching certificate that participants in the course will receive would hopefully just be the start.
"We are looking at continuing the coaching certification program, and this will be good also for Taiwan's football development. The collaboration with the English FA will be maintained, and we hope to bring Mr. Walker and Mr. Newson back later this year for further training, up to Level-4 coaching certification," said Chandler.
Meanwhile, speaking of the Hammers' fortunes this season, Newson said that the club, which is currently 10th in the Premier League, ahead of today's clash with Fulham, was doing well considering the level of competition it was facing, having been promoted from The Championship (England's second tier) last year.