When Matt Flower and a small group of his fellow teachers met after school one day for a kick about in the school grounds, they had no idea that the group would develop into an organized football club. It certainly has developed though, from those inauspicious beginnings, during it’s first year. Matt, who is the teams manager, tells me he puts the official foundation date at 26th
May 2010. Fathers day, and that small group of English teachers entered a team to compete against fathers of the children at their school, and a club was born.
By the middle of June it became apparent there was enough interested participants to make the expansion to 11-a-side football. So Matt set about really forming the club, attracting as many players as possible through internet forums, and at the end of July 2010, there were enough consistent players to merit the designing and ordering of the club’s crest and kits. Still though the past year has in Matt’s words “exceeded all expectations.”
The path from fun and games as it were, to formal training and organized competition has not always been smooth. Difficulties have had to be overcome as Matt at first sought to expand the player base and subsequently to improve performances on the training pitch and playing field. All of us, I include myself here as an active member, players and the player-manager, would like to think this has been achieved but no doubt we would all agree too, there is much room for improvement.
“Training is a very multi-national event,”
Jhubei FC players are a diverse bunch. Matt informs me that from the outset over twenty countries have been represented in the team. Inevitably not all players stick around, for one reason or another. By my reckoning though there are at least twelve current nationalities representing the club with some regularity. Training is a very multi-national event, and I think everyone present appreciates this. It’s most not definitely not your typical ‘Ex-pat Athletic’ consisting of mainly Britons and North Americans. Although they are present too, but there are Africans, Asians, an Australian, Central Americans, Europeans all coming together in the name of football. Did somebody once say; football is the world religion? And we train on a Sunday too!
This diversity must surely be a reflection of the growing cosmopolitanism and modernisation of Taiwan. Certainly in the Hsinchu/Jhubei area, with the economically vital Hsinchu science park, attracting technologists from all over the world. Although really this accounts for only a small portion of Jhubei FC’s multi-national composition. There are a large portion of TEFL teachers involved, some students, and even a Catholic priest from Congo-Brazzaville. I put this idea to Matt, a Canada native but as a long-term resident of Taiwan for over ten years he is in a good position to judge Taiwan’s development. His one word answer confirmed it to me “Agreed.”
“Telling it like it is sometimes leads to temporary friction,”
Of course, aside from the appreciation of twenty first century globalisation in Taiwan, the various nationalities of team members, does present some difficulties for those involved. As manger, Matt identifies one frequent problem.
“Communication differences with East and West…the hardest thing has been the openness that Westerners have in sport. Telling it like it is sometimes leads to temporary friction but it’s left on the pitch. Asians sometimes see Westerners as playing soccer with perceived anger. It is a challenge for management.”
Creating a team mentality from such a disparate group is still a work in progress, but I think it is testament to all involved and the manager that we are moving in the right direction. Matt says “The last six months have generally been amazing, with everyone pulling in the same direction.” The old problems have been resolved and battles won. The first victory was achieved at the seventh time of asking. One disruptive player was removed from the group, skilled but selfish and lacking tactical awareness, ‘the Indonesian’ lets call him was in the habit of undermining the manager in training. For Matt this was a difficult task to undertake, changing the previously all-welcome attitude of the club. This could be perceived as evidence of an East/West cultural difference, more likely though it is evidence of certain personalities. Personally, I think it would be quite strange to have a football club in Taiwan, without Taiwanese players involved, although there are many – strictly ex-pat FC‘s. Nor have I seen much in the way of misunderstanding with these members. Just mutual enthusiasm.
The most recent outing for the club was something of a disappointment. At the end of August 2011 a depleted team, traveled to Tainan for the national tournament, with other teams from across the island. A learning experience is the best way to describe what unfolded. Without many key players including the goalkeeper, a patchwork team containing only ten actual team members and helped by friends in the locality were defeated 1-0 on 4 occasions across the two days. Thankfully for our pride and enthusiasm we did manage to gain a 1-0 victory also, thus ensuring we were not bottom of the pile. Indeed the nature of the performances, and narrow defeats we have to consider as a positive, in the circumstances. The message was simple, with a fuller compliment of players, injuries and families permitting, we stand a chance of really achieving something at such a tournament. The next national tournament scheduled for October, gives us that opportunity, and taking place in Taipei, closer to home, it is likely the husbands and fathers can get time off from that life and help the cause.
It’s not all about winning though is it? It is the taking part that counts. Or is that just a losers maxim? No really, when I questioned Matt on what he saw as the role of Jhubei FC, and what would he like to see happen in the future. It was with appreciation and understanding that I noted his response.
“I see the team firstly as a place for footballers to do what they enjoy doing, something healthy. As a place for guy-time, away from our jobs, and wives and girlfriends but in a positive way. Also as a way of giving something back to Taiwan, a place which has given us all so much.”
“Another positive example of East meeting West, and surely intentions we can all tip our hats to.”
He went on to outline how he intends to get the club involved in more charity and community work henceforth. Starting with a charity run in October, for the Garden of Hope Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping women at risk. Although still at the planning stage, if I know Matt, it will take place. We will try and attract as many runners from inside and outside the club as possible, and get other local businesses involved also to make an event of it. He also went on to mention the idea of a Christmas toy drive for a local orphanage, obviously taking place in the run up to that time of year. Another positive example of East meeting West, and surely intentions we can all tip our hats to.
Doubtless too, we all would like the club to continue to grow in its foremost role, as a football club. Building respect among the other FC’s in Taiwan, and as a club that outlasts the current personnel’s involvement. Let players and managers come and go but the club should remain, is the frequently voiced football motto.
Matt says “I see the club as a catalyst for the desires of it’s members.”
So whether that is a little bit of fun and exercise, charity fund raising or personal development – Jhubei FC can help us achieve these goals. That is aside from the football, and when it comes to that field, if not quite life and death, I think we all want to win!