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Taiwan soccer could be in world's top 100, given support: coach

2017/12/11 19:04:01

Gary White

By Joseph Yeh, staff reporter

The goal of helping Taiwan's national soccer team to advance into the world's top 100 ranking would be "easily achievable," given more government and private sector support for a better environment for soccer development, Gary White, the team's head coach, said Monday.

Speaking to CNA, White, the English head coach of the national squad, said the goal set by Taiwan's Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) to advance the team's world ranking to the Top 100 in five years is "easily achievable."

"We can do it in two years," he said.

But he also said that the goal is reachable only under the premise that the team is given "more support from the government and other people."

"If we want to be a top 100 team, we need to first see what a top 100 team looks like," he said.

For instance, he said that in Premier League Football, the top five clubs are those that have spent the most money recruiting players and coaching staff.

Most of the national teams in the top 100 rankings have 40 to 50 staff and assistant coaches, while in Taiwan there is only a handful, he pointed out.

"To be a top 100 ranking team, we must act like it, look like it, and think like it first."

White said the national team needs to have bigger private sponsors and more financial help from the central government.

"The plan is there, and now the question is how to do it," he said.

Taiwan's national team making progress

Currently the team has a FIFA world ranking of 135. Compared with the FIFA ranking of only two years ago, which was 182, the improvement is a huge one in just 24 months.

One of the major reasons for the team making such significant progress is because of the CTFA's ongoing efforts to recruit ethnic Chinese or Taiwanese players competing overseas to the squad.

It has also been inviting foreign national coaches to work here.

Following the departure of ex-head coach Kazuo Kuroda of Japan due to health issues in August, the CTFA managed to ink a one-year-deal with White Sept. 15.

An international professional soccer manager, White was previously in charge at China League One team Shanghai Shenxin, steering the club away from the relegation zone. He also has extensive international experience.

Since his first appointment with the British Virgin Islands in 1998, the 43-year-old coach has had appointments in Barbados and Guam, guiding each to their highest-ever FIFA rankings.

White brought his whole coaching team to Taiwan in an attempt to revamp the national team, which has been struggling for years.

While not working for the national team, White and his team travels around the country to promote soccer development at the grassroots level.

Before White was appointed, Taiwan had lost to Bahrain at home with an embarrassing 5-0.

With his first games in charge coming against Mongolia and Bahrain on Oct. 5 and Oct. 10, his appointment saw an immediate improvement in results for Taiwan, with a 4-2 friendly win against Mongolia in his first game, and a shocking 2-1 win against Bahrain in a 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier.

Though ultimately the team lost in Turkmenistan Nov. 14, meaning it is likely to be knocked out of contention for one of the group's top two spots and qualification for the 2019 tournament, the national team is definitely getting stronger.

"Since the appointment of White, we have won five games in a row at home," CTFA Secretary-General Chen Wei-jen (陳威任) noted. "I guess the results speak for themselves."

Chen declined to reveal the exact worth of White's one-year-contract, disclosing only that the association has spent more than NT$15 million (US$500,000) since October on the national team as a whole.

How to make change

Asked how he managed to dramatically change the team in such a short period, White said that there is no magic in his coaching.

"I am just a very driven person and know exactly what I want. Persistence and drive are the two most important things in life," he said.

He also praised his coaching staff and the Taiwanese players' mentality in trying to learn. "They are easy to coach because they want to get better."

White did share some tips as a head coach. He said many coaches focus on tactics, but he always tries to capture the people first.

"The game is simple, but managing the passion and motivation of players, finding what motivates them, I think that is the key for any success."

As an attack-minded coach, White made significant adjustments over the past months by putting Taiwanese players in positions where they are more suitable and useful.

In the longer term, White urged Taiwan to set up its own professional soccer league if it is serious about the sport's promotion. A professional league would give younger players something to look for in the future.

The league doesn't need to be big -- around eight teams to start with would suffice, he noted.

"First you have to have better players and a better environment and facilities, and more money," he noted.

"We are getting closer (to making soccer in Taiwan more competitive), all you have to do is to have a different mentality," he added.

(By Joseph Yeh)