Taiwan's new professional T1 basketball league has its eyes on turning Southeast Asian immigrants and migrant workers into fans by creating special rules to get players from the region to play in the league, a T1 official told CNA Friday.
T1 clubs are allowed to have four foreign nationals on their rosters, but the league will now also permit each team to sign two more overseas players who fall into a "third category," according to Chia Fan (??), head of the league's competition affairs.
The "third category" covers Asian players, foreign students, and overseas ethnic-Chinese athletes.
According to league rules, of the four foreign imports, three can be active for each game but only two can be on the court at the same time. Of the two "third category" players, only one can be active per game.
Up to now, the league has brought in three Filipino players and one Thai player as "third category" players who will perform in the league's inaugural season, which starts Nov. 27, Chia said.
One of the potential stars is 29-year-old Filipino-American Caelan Tiongson, who came out of retirement to join the Taoyuan Leopards.
The 1.97-meter tall forward averaged 11.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his professional debut in the ASEAN Basketball League in the 2017-18 season, when he played for the Chong Son Kung Fu.
He then played for the Alab Pilipinas in the 2018-19 season, but has been inactive since then.
Citing the more than 145,000 Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan, the league is hoping these players will draw Southeast Asians who live in Taiwan to attend games on their days off and cheer for their compatriots, Chia said.
"If you remember, there was one year at the William Jones Cup where Taiwan was playing the Philippines. There were more Filipino supporters at that game than Taiwanese supporters," Chia said.
"Filipinos passionately love basketball and their basketball stars, especially when they are competing overseas."
When asked if clubs from the league will tap into basketball talent from the many Filipino migrant worker basketball leagues across Taiwan, Chia said the clubs will likely look into it.
"I think the league basketball players can interact with the migrant worker leagues to find any basketball talent that's in Taiwan," Chia said.
Every season, Filipino associations and clubs across Taiwan organize basketball leagues and tournaments for Filipino workers to promote friendship and help fight homesickness.
Other clubs in the inaugural season of the T1 League are the Taipei-based Taiwan Beer HeroBears, New Taipei CTBC DEA, Taichung Suns, Tainan TSG GhostHawks, and the Kaohsiung Aquas.
The T1 league will be one of two professional basketball leagues in Taiwan this year along with the P.LEAGUE+.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel