When the World Started to Notice Taiwan’s Premier League

The start of the TFPL, in the middle of the greatest ever global sporting vacuum, has garnered unexpected attention in a lot of news outlets.

Stands will be empty until June at the earliest, as Taiwan implements social distancing measures. [Credit: Tatung FC]

Altough the majority of the international media’s focus has been on the return of Taiwan’s most loved sport, baseball, football has not gone unnoticed.

Thanks in large part to the excellent response of the Taiwan government, football is still being played in Taiwan, albeit behind closed doors.

As a result, media outlets from around the world are beginning give Taiwan’s Premier League, which was, at the time of writing, the 39th-best league in the Asian Football Confederation, a great deal of attention.

Last week, Forbes and CNN discussed the launch of the TFPL.

After being covered briefly by Reuters, several other online outlets mentioned the TFPL’s opening day, including the New York Times and the Indian Express.

In France, where baseball is very much a minority sport, the TFPL garnered even more attention. Famous French sports newspaper L’Equipe dedicated an article to the league, while Le Figaro, France Football and French language international radio RFI all covered the league.

In the Spanish-speaking world, the opening day of ‘La Premier League de Taiwan’ was a popular topic.

The Spanish sports paper ‘as’ interviewed Taiwan physio Javier Gonzalez, with Chile’s CDF doing the same with Taiwan Steel player Mati Godoy.

The league was also covered by Olé and Mundo D in Argentina, ESPN Deportes and El Popular in Mexico and El Colombiano in Colombia.

The league has also been noticed by German and British outlets, as Focus, Fussball.news, BBC World Service and several others took note.

With bookmakers desperately looking for new revenue options due to the lack of world sport, Taiwan has also received more attention from betting firms. Last Monday, Sportsbook Review published an article on the new season, focusing on each team’s key players.

English-language commentators Qin Zhongjie (r) and Roy (l) [Credit: China Times]

Does this represent an opportunity?

While the CTFA has made no cynical attempt to increase viewership by taking advantage of a global pandemic, they have reacted quickly to accommodate the increase in demand for Taiwanese football.

The league has been made accessible worldwide thanks to the decision to increase streaming options for the games. For the first time, the league broadcast a Premier League game, between Tatung and Red Lions, with English commentary, further increasing accessibility.

Taipei Arena, home of Tatung. [Credit: Travel Taipei]

The decision to choose this game was a prudent one, being played in the excellent Taipei Arena, a far better football stadium than some of the more humble grounds being used at the weekend.

The unprecedented opportunity for an international audience to learn about Taiwanese football, and perhaps Taiwan in general, is not lost on those within the league.

Tatung’s Chiang Mu-Tsai is hopeful for the future of Taiwan’s football league. [Credit:Tatung FC]

Speaking with Taiwan Football News, Tatung’s manager, Chiang Mu-Tsai stated: “Due to COVID-19, there are lots of foreign attention falls on Taiwan football. Taiwan should use well of this opportunity, and give the whole world a good image of Taiwan.”

Roy, TFPL’s English-language commentator, was similarly optimistic for what increased awareness could bring. He told Taiwan Football News: “It’s a good opportunity for Taiwan to promote to a higher international standard, especially when our football system is still under developing stage.”

Something else Roy noted is that it is not just additional attention, but additional scrutiny, that will help the league to develop. “More noises means more opinions.”

This hits upon an important point. More attention does not necessarily translate to unwavering support. Although the CTFA has been making progress in their efforts to reform and improve football in Taiwan, will the potential ideas and criticism that may come from new viewers encourage greater and faster improvements?

While Taiwan enjoys a large share of the world’s attention, it is hoped that the opportunity to further improve the league is taken so that football here can continue to develop after the coronavirus has been overcome.

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