TAIPEI – Taiwan celebrated on Saturday after its men’s basketball team recorded their first ever win at the FIBA Asia Championship over powerful rival China.
Reports of the 96-78 win in Friday’s quarter-final in Manila were splashed on the front pages of all four major newspapers, with the media hailing it as a “historic triumph”.
“Asian championship miracle! Crazy victory over the Chinese team,” read the headline on the United Daily News front page. “First time in history, Taiwan crushes China,” said a headline in the Apple Daily.
Friday’s victory put Taiwan in the semi-finals for the first time since 1999 and the team will face Iran on Saturday for a spot in the final.
The victory sparked joy in Taiwan, which has been overshadowed by its giant neighbour in nearly every sport since splitting from China six decades ago at the end of a civil war.
“20 million Taiwanese defeated 1.3 billion Chinese. It was the best win ever by Taiwanese heroes,” read a message posted at the Liberty Times newspaper’s online comments section.
China still claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. However, tensions have eased markedly since Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008 on a Beijing-friendly platform.
In recent years, China has been wooing Taiwan’s top talent in sports including basketball, baseball, pool, golf and tennis as ties improve.
But that has created fears in Taiwan that the island is suffering from a so-called “brawn drain” as top players are lured by larger pay packets on the mainland.
Recently, Wimbledon women’s doubles champion Hsieh Su-wei shocked fans when her father revealed that she may take up Chinese citizenship in exchange for a lucrative sponsorship deal.