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Belgian pro gains eligibility for Taiwan's national soccer team

2011/06/20 23:27:33

Taipei, June 20 (CNA) A Belgium-born professional soccer player, who was born to a Taiwanese father and French mother, received a Taiwan ID Monday, making him officially eligible to represent Taiwan in the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Xavier Chen, who has played for KV Mechelen in the Belgian Pro League since 2007, became a Taiwanese citizen after getting his ID in Danshui, New Taipei City, where his grandfather, a retired diplomat, lives.

The 27-year-old right-back will represent Taiwan in future international matches, including two qualifying matches against Malaysia on June 29 and July 3.

Taiwan must win the two-match series on aggregate for its World Cup qualifying campaign to continue.

Chen went to the Danshui District Household Registration Office to collect the ID card and signed his Chinese name Chen Chang-yuan on a soccer ball, paving the way for him to become the first player from an top international league to play for Taiwan's national team.

The University of Brussels law school graduate was discovered accidentally by Taiwan's football association in 2009.

Ginola Chen, the Chinese Taipei Football Association's public relations director, found the name "Xavier Chen" when he was playing an online FIFA football game two years ago and thought it was probably a "patch" or a role created by gamers.

But when he found out Chen was the real thing, the association recruited Chen to the national side, and the player finally agreed last year.

Chen had aspirations to play for Belgium's national team, but his grandfather changed his mind.

"Grandpa worked hard for his country for many years. It was an honor. I am also Taiwanese, so I hope I can be part of the Chinese Taipei football team to win glory for the nation," Chen said when he returned to take care of the paperwork to get a Taiwan visa and ID in May.

The association and Chen have agreed the he will be paid 1,000 euros (US$1,430) for each appearance, a pittance compared with his annual income of about 700,000 euros.

(By Kendra Lin)