Hosting of Senegal soccer team turns sour

The China Post staff

A friendly visit to Taiwan by Senegal’s World Cup soccer team has turned sour, with the government hosts and the guests complaining about each other. As the World Cup quarterfinalists were leaving Monday night after a two-day short visit, some team members reportedly criticized Taiwan’s “poor hospitality.” At the boarding gate at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, a team official burst into a fit of rage, complaining about the accommodation and the food. The man said the team, which was very tired having been away from home for 45 days, had not really wanted to come. He was unhappy that they were only flying economy class on a China Airlines flight back home. When a teammate reminded that he was talking in front of cameras, the man said he just wanted the media coverage. The Foreign Ministry spent over NT$10 million to bring the Senegal team to Taiwan a day after their defeat to Turkey in the quarterfinal in Japan on Saturday. The money was spent on their accommodation at Taipei’s Grand Hotel, airplane tickets, and appearance fees. The footballers from one of the few countries in the world that recognize Taiwan, however, only made a brief appearance at a Taipei stadium Monday morning to the disappointment of a small crowd expecting to see them play a friendly with a local team. Although ministry officials said Senegal had already apologized for the airport episode, they accused the soccer team of breaking a contract for their visit. Shih Juei-chih, the official in charge of the visit, revealed a 45-minute demonstration by the Senegal internationals had been agreed on, although no friendly match had been planned. The team was expected to teach local players football skills during the demonstration, for which they were paid US$100,000, Shih said. But on that morning the team claimed that their kits had all been sent back home and they could not play. They just showed up and did some kicking in casual wear. The host could not be satisfied by the Senegalese exhibition, said ministry spokeswoman Chang Siao-yu.

But she said the “emotional behavior” of the players who had had an exhausting soccer tournament was understandable. When asked whether the government would ask Senegal to return the US$100,000 appearance fee, Chang declined to comment. Shih said a report would have to be made to Foreign Minister Eugene Chien before any decisions could be made. But he said the fee actually was a small sum for the Senegal footballers, most of whom earn big money playing in European clubs. Taiwan actually could not have afforded it if they had asked for a regular fee, which would have been many times more. Chang revealed that man complaining at the airport was a player’s agent. He was angry about being seated in the economy class because there was no room in the business class section.