Defending champions Tainan TSG (Taiwan Steel Group) face a tough challenge from their southern neighbors Taipower and CPC FC when the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) season starts this weekend with four matches on Sunday.
Promoting grassroots soccer, and organizing relegation and promotion between the top and second divisions last year was important for the progression of Taiwanese soccer, CTFA chairman Chiou I-jen told a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
“We are going in the right direction ... and becoming more competitive” for international competitions, Chiou said.
Still the favorites, Tainan TSG have the league’s most fearsome forwards, with three international star players. The team are also captained by Wu Chun-ching, who won last year’s Most Valuable Player award, and have national goalkeeper Pan Wen-chieh between the posts.
Team manager Lo Chih-tsung has bolstered the offense by signing last year’s Golden Boot winner Ange Samuel, the Ivory Coast striker who netted 20 goals for Tatung FC to top the scoring charts last year, in one of the big off-season moves among the clubs.
Samuel is likely to feature up front, in rotation with Marco Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, Benchy Astama from Haiti, and Yu Chia-huang from Yilan County.
Fenelus came second on the scoring charts with 19 goals last year, tied with Taichung Futuro forward Joo Ik-seong from South Korea, while Astama was fourth with 16.
Wu and Pan represented the team in handing over the TFPL trophy for the new season.
“We are ready to defend our league title, aiming to repeat our winning form from last year, but other clubs have new signings and have added foreign players to strengthen their lineups,” Wu said.
“It is a very good development — for Taiwan’s overall soccer environment, and for the league — to have stronger competition,” he said.
Pan, who took three consecutive league titles with Tatung FC and moved to Tainan TSG last year, told reporters that the “Taiwan soccer championship goes to wherever I am playing, so my team can take the title again this year.”
“The other goal is for me to take back the Golden Glove award,” Pan said.
Pan had a shoulder injury last year and did not play enough games. The league’s best goalkeeper honor went to Tuan Yu of Taichung Futuro, who also pose a threat this season.
Two big clubs based in Kaohsiung are also ready to challenge Tainan TSG, Taipower, who finished second last year, and in recent decades have dominated the top division along with Tatung FC, as well as newcomers CPC.
The second-division champions from last year are financially backed by the state-owned petroleum and gas giant CPC Corp, Taiwan.
The team are led by captain Cortes Mao from Colombia, who said that he aims to reach top of the league to qualify for AFC Cup club competition, while the team’s lineup includes star Chilean midfielder Matias Godoy, and a mix of Taiwanese and foreign players from Brazil, France, the Gambia, Morocco, South Korea, Uzbekistan and other countries.
TAKE TWO: Tainan TSG are the favorites going into this season, which starts on Sunday. They have fearsome forwards and national ’keeper Pan Wen-chieh between the posts Defending champions Tainan TSG (Taiwan Steel Group) face a tough challenge from their southern neighbors Taipower and CPC FC when the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) season starts this weekend with four matches on Sunday. Promoting grassroots soccer, and organizing relegation and promotion between the top and second divisions last year was important for the progression of Taiwanese soccer, CTFA chairman Chiou I-jen told a news conference in Taipei yesterday. “We are going in the right direction ... and becoming more competitive” for international competitions, Chiou said. Still the favorites, Tainan TSG have the league’s most fearsome forwards, with three international star players.
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