MFA Growing in Taiwan
From Taipei, Taiwan
If you read last week’s column you would have learned that running as a sport in Taiwan is close to non-existent. In fact sports of any kind is very low key to the Taiwanese and most would prefer to watch competition on television rather that participate.
But if Michael Chandler and his partners have any say, things will begin to change.
Chandler, and two of his partners, founded Master Football Academy (MFA) in 2004 to help develop sports competition amongst the children of Taiwan.
“There is a huge hole in grassroots sports development in Taiwan, which we aim to help close,” Chandler said.
Chandler moved to Taipei in 1999 when the shipping company he works for transferred him from a post in Saudi Arabia. “My core profession is shipping, namely freight forwarding. In Taiwan we solely focus on transport solutions of commercial goods between Taiwan and Europe. MFA is simply my passionate hobby,” he said.
Now before anyone starts having visions of a Taiwanese version of Bret Favre or Jason Elam remember that “football” to the world outside the United States refers to what we Americans call “soccer.”
“I’ve been playing a variety of sports since I can remember, imitating my heroes from watching TV,” Chandler said. “I’ve always been involved in football through playing in the streets and at school. I was, however, a more useful cricketer.”
Chandler, along with many other transplants to the country, feels that Taiwan is far behind the rest of the world in sports education.
“Taiwan is an amazing country, which has developed economically quicker than most other’s and therefore made concerted and successful efforts towards education. However, at the expense of physical education,” he said.
A recent report released by Taiwan’s Department of Health showed that one in every four junior high and high school students are considered overweight due to a lack of exercise and poor nutrition.
“A lack of exercise, poor eating habits, TV, and computer games are also the culprits,” Chandler said in response to the report.
“We know through experience that if children are not introduced to fun sports at a young age it becomes more difficult to introduce the older they become,” Chandler said. “One other important factor here is the exposure to professional sport is very poor, so it is difficult for children to have heroes to aspire to.”
MFA’s mission is to promote some of the early work in introducing Taiwanese children to the simple fundamentals of the game.
“Some of the early work we concentrate on is to simply get the children up on their toes. You wouldn’t believe how flat-footed many people are here, as a limited sports culture exists meaning they have not been appropriately taught,” Chandler said.
Over the past few years there has been more focus towards sports outside of the school system. Roller skating, tennis, baseball and soccer classes are on the rise, according to Chandler.
But Chandler is quick to point out that the early introduction to new sports activities occur primarily in the elementary school years and fade as soon as the children move onto Junior High.
“Our (MFA) focus over the next few years will be to try to keep the junior and senior high school student’s active in sports. Our first initiative is to introduce a community league program where we can actively involve the parents to enable them to learn for themselves the benefits a life-long involvement in sports will provide,” Chandler said.
If Chandler and his partners are successful in introducing a community league program it will be the first of its kind in Taiwan, and no easy task.
For residents of Taiwan, baseball is the favorite spectator sport, but the professional league, with its four teams, has had its problems its short history. The baseball league has been rocked with various scandals, mainly gambling, that today has diminished its attendance.
In 2007 one of the co-founders of MFA, David Camhi, developed a recreational team of adult players called Taipei Football Club (TFC).
After meeting with initial success Camhi and the TFC progressed in the development to create Taipei County Master Football Club (TC-MFC) which is an elite team that has now gained entry into Taiwan’s 2nd tier football league, with the hopes of making it into the top tier.
Through the efforts of people like Chandler and Camhi the MFA (soccer) program from kindergarten through to Taiwan’s top level now has something to offer all players; from all abilities in the growing hope to have Taiwan takes its place in the world’s sporting community.