Pioneers Chinese Taipei build for return to former glory
Chinese Taipei are a pioneering nation of women’s football
Three-time Asian champions display recent promise and ambition
Mulan are looking to return to the Women’s World Cup after three decades
Which Asian team - aside from host nation China PR - reached the quarter-finals of the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup™?
Those of you who immediately identified Chinese Taipei as the correct answer would be pretty handy at a women’s football trivia night.
It seems unlikely now, but Chinese Taipei were a major player in their own continent a few decades back. More than that, they were a pioneer of women’s football in one of the game's traditionally strong regions.
Indeed, their continental record is matched by few nations globally. Three successive AFC Women’s Asian Cup wins between 1977 and 1981 headline their trophy cabinet. Regular semi-finals appearances followed, sandwiched by a pair of silver medals, the most recent in 1999. Quirkily, they also won the OFC Women’s Championship twice during the 1980s.
Chinese Taipei even knocked over African champions Nigeria at the 1991 Women’s World Cup. Now they are hoping to be in the mix to end a three-decade absence from the world stage.
And recent results in the AFC Olympic Qualification Tournament proved that such ambition is valid. In fact, earlier this year the East Asians defeated Thailand, a nation that has participated at the past two Women’s World Cups.
Despite heavy defeats against Australia and China PR, Chinese Taipei ended the 23-nation Olympic campaign just a single place away from the four-team final play-off round. Mulan, as they are affectionately known in reference to the venerable ancient female warrior, are now 40th on the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking.
Under coach Kazuo Echigo, the team displayed tactical discipline during their international outings amid a busy year which included the 2019 East Asian Championship (EAFF) and the second stage of Olympic qualifiers.
So can the team reach a level where it is competing for Women’s World Cup qualification? Echigo is unequivocal in his response. “Of course, this is the reason why we are working hard so far,” the Japanese mentor told FIFA.com. “The [recent] results showed the efforts accumulating from the past [matches].”
Growth and equality
There are plenty of signs that women’s football is on the move on the island. Last year the Chinese Taipei Football Association made a historic pledge that national team players’ fees and bonuses will be equal regardless of gender.
Genuine progress is also being made away from the national team, with tickets to select matches in the Mulan League put on sale for the first time last year.
Qualifiers for the 2021 EAFF Championship loom and will form an important step for Chinese Taipei in their quest to compete for a 2023 Women’s World Cup berth. Echigo believes international matches and gaining further experience will be pivotal to his ambition of continued growth for the team.
“I would like my players to increase their experience of international matches, which requires assistance from other countries,” he said. “Last year’s EAFF Championship provided us with great competition and a good experience that we want to have again.”