- Chinese Taipei have enjoyed an unexpected rise in the world ranking
- New coach Gary White has provided instant dividends
- The Englishman recently took Guam to new heights
Chinese Taipei have just hit their best-ever position on the FIFA/Coca-Coca World Ranking. The fact that it corresponds with the recent arrival of coach Gary White is no coincidence. The Englishman is in charge of his fourth national team, and each one of them have reached new heights on the global ladder.
Though still only 43, White has lead four modestly-resourced teams to all-time highs, starting with the British Virgin Islands back in the late 1990s. Then came a nine-year stint with Bahamas, before notable ground-breaking success at Guam.
Once the unwanted holder of the worst defeat in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying, White not only led Guam into the second stage of Russia 2018 qualifying, but helped secure the tiny island nation a memorable victory over India despite the vast disparity in population.
Now White has set about bringing his magic touch to Chinese Taipei. The east Asian nation featured in two AFC Asian Cups in the 1960s and was a pioneer of women’s football in the region. Recent decades, however, have not been so kind, with no obvious solution on the horizon.
A poor start to Asian Cup qualifying earlier this year saw them on the brink of elimination. Then came the arrival of White. Just two matches later and Chinese Taipei are in sight of unlikely qualification, and enjoying a new high of 143 on the Ranking.
A Fantastic October Night in TAIPEI.. pic.twitter.com/hB2lMZlz82
— Gary J. White (@GaryJWhiteTD) October 11, 2017
A win over Mongolia was followed by a 2-1 victory over Bahrain. The second result was hugely significant. Bahrain, after all, competed in the most recent Asian Cup and featured in the intercontinental play-off for both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. A month before White arrived Bahrain defeated Chinese Taipei 5-0.
Such was the magnitude of the turnaround, the win over Bahrain is now colloquially known as 10-10 in reference to the date of the match.
Secrets behind the magic
So what are some of the keys to White’s success? “As you go through your career you pick-up things that work,” White told FIFA.com. “The cultural and values side of the team is something I use wherever I go.
“The players took on that immediately and it showed on the field against Bahrain. For me, it is getting players to understand about you as a coach, and show that you care about them as people, before you talk about tactics.”
White says the local competition is a good standard, while he also has eight international players to call upon, mostly based in China PR. “I always knew they had potential, but not a winning culture,” White said. “There is some real talent here, but they just have to believe they are talented. With the players we have based in China and Europe it is a nice mix.”
History in the offing
A result in next month’s match away to Turkmenistan would leave Chinese Taipei within touching distance of ending their 51-year absence from the continental stage.
“If that happens it will go absolutely crazy here,” White said. “There is a real football fever here at the moment with the public and the media, which is good in a country where baseball and basketball dominate. It shows they want football to be important.
“There is huge scope to grow the program on and off the field. It would give us huge momentum. It would mean everything for the future here.
“Football is the biggest sport amongst youths until the age of about 12 so it has a solid grounding. The locals watch a lot of international football, so it [qualification] would be a decisive moment in turning the country into a football-mad society.”