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'Brave foot Ma' kicks Taiwan past Gambian officials

2012/04/15 15:35:48

Banjul, The Gambia, April 14 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou faced down another sports challenge in The Gambia before leaving the country Saturday, leading Taiwan past Gambia 4-3 in a penalty kick shootout at a local junior high school.

Ma scored a goal in each of three rounds in which five top officials from each country attempted a penalty.

The president's sporting abilities were previously tested Wednesday when he engaged in a push-up challenge against Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. The contest ended in a tie.

Taiwan's team in Saturday's penalty kick battle consisted of the president, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang, National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen, Labor Minister Wang Ju-hsuan and Vice Economics Minister Lin Sheng-chung.

Wang Hsien-min, an official at Taiwan's embassy in the Gambia, was the team's goalkeeper.

On the Gambian team were Jammeh and the country's foreign minister, health bureau chief, interior minister, and secretary-general of the Presidential Office, with the construction minister as its goalkeeper.

Ma scored one goal for Taiwan in each of the three rounds and Yang scored a decisive goal in the third round. Jammeh scored a goal in the second and third rounds for the home team, and Gambia's foreign minister added a score in the second round.

Though the 61-year-old president is mostly known for enjoying non-ball sports, such as running and swimming, Ma is said to have played soccer in high school and college and earned the nickname "brave foot Ma" from teammates.

"The most important thing is friendship. Winning or losing is not the point," Ma said, when asked how he felt about winning.

On whether any other sports challenges might be on the horizon, Ma said hopefully, "We have yet to compete in my strong suit -- running."

Ma is on a 12-day trip in Africa to visit three of Taiwan's four diplomatic allies on the continent. He started his trip in Burkina Faso and headed to Swaziland Saturday night after his stay in The Gambia.

The objective of the visit is to solidify diplomatic ties, deepen bilateral understanding and review various joint projects in the fields of medicine, agriculture, vocational education and infrastructure development, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ma is scheduled to return Taiwan on April 18.

(By Lee Shu-hua and Ann Chen)