Jordan Slam Dunks Taiwan

  

More interesting than the action on the pitch as Taiwan went down 2-0 to Jordan at Taipei Municipal Stadium (台北田徑場 – actually literally “athletics stadium”) on Wednesday night was the reaction of the Jordanians – players and fans – to the night’s proceedings.

The West stand was reasonably full for this playoff for the Olympic qualifying groups, at least compared to the games I’ve attended at Zhongshan Soccer Stadium, and the Taiwanese supporters were of good voice and drum, the incongruity of their Spanish flags, “Allez” (did they not watch the last World Cup?) chants and the monotony of the rhythms notwithstanding. It being in Minnan, we couldn’t decipher the words to their favoured ditty, though my pal The Aesthete who is planning a treatise on Taiwanese football as anti-performance art, was tickled by the last couple of words which sounded, improbably, like “Formosa gan!” (Fuck Formosa).

The problem, as I’ve seen it at the few games I’ve seen, is the lack of a final ball. Sure, evidence of a cutting edge was also scant – we were not in a position to see clearly the unchallenged arse-over-tit collapse of a Taiwanese forward with a gaping goal ahead of him but some mates who were said it was embarrassing – but first things first.

I’m thinking a destitute man’s arsenal here – they strung five or six passes together several times (several more than England manages on most outings) and played some neat one-twos but seemed to either get in each other’s way or not provide decent passing options. Taiwan’s best chance was a looping shot from about 25 meters which grazed the crossbar in the 6th minute. It looked like a bit of a mishit.

We were curious as to the ref’s nationality, as he early on established himself as a homer, though with the theatrics of a couple of the Jordanians (The big No. 18 would fit right into a Taiwanese soap with his excruciating overacting) perhaps he could be excused his indifference to some of the chunkier challenges. One wag who had him pegged as a Korean fearful of a lynching should he make the disgracefully partisan calls for which his countryman are renowned*, amusingly, turned out to be spot on.

Korean ref Kim Sang-woo was pretty lenient with his calls, perhaps fearful of courting the standard conspiracy theories and xenophobia that are rolled out whenever South Korea is involved in an event with Taiwanese competitors (photo by Isshno1/Flickr; video by Cow Swill)

Regardless of Mr Kim’s efforts, skill and tactic-wise the Arabs had a bit too much for the local boys and when Taiwan committed men, it always looked like Jordan could hit them on the break. I wasn’t sure of the format but knew Taiwan had got a respectable result, losing 1-0 in Amman. Once we discovered it was a two-legger for a place in the qualies proper, we resigned ourselves to doom when the first went in around the 25-minute mark, the away goals rule meaning Taiwan now needed three.        

The second was window-dressing though it did allow the 40-odd Jordanian fans up top to give full vent to their joy, which had been bubbling over throughout the match. At times they out-vociferated the locals. As people began to filter out, most of the Jordanians hung around to revel in their big night. They had come from across the island. Sporting the captain’s armband, a wide-eyed member of a group of scholarship students was particularly chuffed. “It’s really kind of him to give it to me, right?” he beamed. “We’re all so happy. Some of us came up from Kaohsiung today and it’s a really good feeling.”

Down below the players and management mingled with supporters. At least two of them chuffed with nonchalant abandon on fags proffered by well-wishers. Thick, aromatic smoke of another nature diffused right in front of a yawning, oblivious cop.

As well as the students and businessmen, there were restaurateurs, demi-diplomats and even a military official embedded with the Ministry of Defense, who was coming to the end of a two year “observation” period. Presumably he was here to get an idea of how little countries cope with powerful and (in Jordan’s case, potentially) aggressive neighbours.

“I’m not sure how many altogether but there are definitely fewer than a hundred of us here now,” said Salam, an electronics exporter who came up from Taoyuan with his Taiwanese wife and two kids. “When I came here 10 years ago, there were three or four hundred but things have got more expensive. Many have moved to China now.”

 * I intend to post something on the taekwondo “scandal” and the deafening silence from press and public after the World Taekwondo Federation rejected Yang Shu-chun’s appeal but am awaiting the outcome of the CAS case. I have contacted them but a spokesman told me they were not allowed to comment while arbitration was pending. Indeed they would not even tell me whether a case had been filed or accepted.

About the Author