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Migrant workers in Taiwan hoping for regular soccer fixtures

2017/10/29 17:13:48

Players compete with each other during a soccer game at an event organized New Taipei City government on Oct. 22 at New Taipei Xinzhuang Sports Complex. Photo courtesy of Taiwan's Global Workers' Organization

By Joseph Yeh, CNA staff reporter

The first New Taipei International Migrant Soccer Competition ended Oct. 22 at the Xinzhuang Sports Complex, with Pojok Joyo FC, a team made up mainly of Indonesian workers, clinching the title over Bac Giang FC, which fielded mainly Vietnamese players.

Holding their trophy, Furqon Ali, captain of Pojok Joyo, told CNA that the team was overjoyed with the hard-earned title.

Ali, like many other migrant workers from Southeast Asian countries where soccer is extremely popular, trains regularly and plays in pick-up games during his days off.

For this rare one-day tournament, the team managed to find like-minded soccer enthusiasts from as far away as Taichung and Changhua, and held two practice sessions as a team.

They were undoubtedly happy to win the championship and the NT$30,000 (US$994) prize money that came with the trophy.

But what would make them even happier would be to one day see such regular soccer events exclusively for migrant workers like themselves, so that they could get a break from their daily routines and interact with others in a healthy and competitive environment.

Tran Van Tu, a Vietnamese migrant worker at a factory in Taoyuan, shared Ali's view.

"It is really hard for us (migrant workers) to find soccer pitches to play on, and this kind of tournament is the best solution for us," he told CNA.

Tran hinted that many Taiwanese still have some prejudice against migrant workers from Southeast Asia.

Karen Hsu (徐瑞希), secretary-general of Taiwan's Global Workers' Organization, which was one of the organizers of Sunday's tournament, knows this point perhaps better than anybody else.

Hsu, whose NGO provides foreign workers with information related to work, education and living in Taiwan, said that many local sports complexes are not keen to lend their venues to migrant workers.

"They always tell us that migrant workers tend to leave behind empty beer bottles and garbage after practices or matches," Hsu said.

However, Hsu pointed out that similar sloppiness can be seen among Taiwanese as well. The ultimate problem is that Taiwanese, though few are willing to admit it, are still prejudiced against people from Southeast Asian countries, she said.

"Some Taiwanese still believe they are superior to migrant workers from Southeast Asia. What they do not know is that the economies of many Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries have been booming over the past few decades, and Taiwan is hardly a match for them now," she said.

Hsu gave high credit to migrant workers, saying that she respects those who have the courage to travel overseas in the hope of making a better living for their families back home.

To provide migrant workers with proper recreation during their days off, Hsu's NGO has launched a series of events and workshops to give them the chance to relax from their busy daily routines.

Knowing that soccer is really popular among many Southeast Asian countries -- with the exception of the Philippines, where basketball is the national sport -- Hsu said her NGO organized the first international migrant worker soccer tournament in 2015.

According to Hsu, Vietnamese migrant workers are the No.1 soccer fans in Taiwan. They have organized 25 to 30 teams themselves with the help of Taiwan-based overseas Vietnamese associations, and regularly hold training sessions and matches as a way to bring people together.

Thailand and Indonesia love soccer too, with some five Thai teams in the country, she said. However, they lack a single organization to help them bring teams together.

Hsu said she is glad that the New Taipei City government was willing to organize Sunday's event. Other cities such as Taoyuan, Taichung and Kaohsiung have held similar events in the past.

Her ultimate goal is for the central government to organize a Taiwan Cup migrant worker soccer competition for both blue collar and white collar foreign workers from around the world.

This comes at a pivotal moment, as the administration is promoting its New Southbound Policy, aimed at enhancing closer ties with members of ASEAN, South Asian countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.

"This can show to the world that we are friendly toward foreign workers in Taiwan, while at the same time promoting the country around the globe," she added. 1061029

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