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What other than a referendum can unite Taiwan?

The development of football may reflect the development of a country

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The flags of Taiwan and China stand side-by-side in front of Denmakr's Brondby Stadium in 2019. (Hope photo)

The flags of Taiwan and China stand side-by-side in front of Denmakr's Brondby Stadium in 2019. (Hope photo)

In 1963, Taiwan established its first football team, known as the Tatung Team (大同隊), but for various management-related reasons, it ceased operation on Dec. 19, 2021. The team bade farewell to its fans after 59 years of history.

According to an Emerald Insight report, countries with thriving sports industries are also competitive economies. The global sports market reached a value of nearly US$140 billion in 2020; football took the highest share of 43% with a market value of US$60 billion, followed by American football (14%, US$20 billion) and basketball (6%, US$9 billion).

I have a dream that one day, Taiwan can become the runner-up at the Asian Cup, or even the World Cup (we can save the glory of championships for baseball, Taiwan’s top national sport). Football itself has no power. It is the sportsmanship of football that creates the culture and spirit of teamwork and courage — the football drive.

A win over a powerful football country would put Taiwan under the world’s spotlight and earn the country respect. Teach the Taiwanese to understand, believe, and engage in football; change Taiwan and the world through football.

It sounds like an impossible dream, but as renowned Taiwanese director Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖) once said, “All dreams start from the impossible.”

The political power of football

How can voices from obscure areas be heard by the world? Through football. The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) has 211 members, 28 more than the United Nations.

Just as the story of North Wind and the Sun in Aesop's Fable tells us, persuasion is more effective than a threat — true influence cannot come from the 2,000 missiles China has aimed at Taiwan.

Football does not involve politics, but as Canadian-American political scientist David Easton defined it, politics is the authoritative allocation of values. Many presidents of the world’s countries played football in their youth and even served as captains.

As the most famous example, Liberian President George Weah has won titles including World Footballer of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, and African Footballer of the Year. Russian President Vladimir Putin is apt at a variety of skills including heading and chesting; former US President Donald Trump was an American football player in his youth.

VoxDev research results show that important sports achievements can enhance national unity and trust.

Finding the football drive

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (李安) once said, “We only lack futuristic screenplays.”

What Taiwan lacks is not money, not people, and not land. What Taiwan lacks is someone willing to invest time in waiting for the “football dream” to come true.

Here’s to 2022, a year in which football changes Taiwan and the world.

(Translation by Stephanie Chiang)

Wu Chin-sheng (吳進生) is the publisher of Brain Magazine and a director of the Formosa Republican Association