Taipei, Oct. 17 (CNA) An annual soccer tournament featuring Latin American and Taiwanese teams, among others, kicked off in Taipei on Saturday, highlighting the bonds between the people of the region and Taiwan.
Some 1,000 fans turned out to watch the games on the opening day of Copa America Taiwan, which is being held in New Taipei among 23 teams from 13 countries, at a time when sports events across the world are facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, the tournament, which involves men's, women's and children's categories, is also being streamed live on some social media platforms and recorded for later broadcast on other media.
For the first time since the tournament was launched in 2014, the Guatemalan Association in Taiwan and Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association (TDDA) are working together to extend the reach of the games beyond Taiwan spectators, said Juan Fernando Herrera Ramos, one of the organizers of the tournament.
In Taiwan, civil diplomacy serves as a major means of consolidating the country's relations with other nations, as it battles against international isolation and seeks to raise its visibility on the other side of the world, the TDDA said.
"We hope to bring together people who are interested in strengthening Taiwan-Latin America relations, paving the way for future cooperation," said TDDA Chairwoman Kuo Chia-yo (郭家佑).
The tournament also serves to highlight the fact that it can be held with live spectators, because of Taiwan's handling of COVID-19, the association said.
Guatemala Ambassador to Taiwan Willy Alberto Gómez Tirado said the games offer an opportunity for Latin American countries to show their gratitude to Taiwan, "as we can still gather together and celebrate our friendship."
One of the spectators at Saturday's opening games, Ana Isabel Ruiz Becerril of Mexico, said she felt like she was back home, as she sees all people from Latin America as family.
Becerril, who has had to extend her stay in Taiwan for another six months until next January due to COVID-19 protocols, said she appreciates life in Taiwan in these difficult times.
One of the players, Dale Neal of Belize, said he has been in the Copa America Taiwan tournament for the past five years and is very happy to see people from Latin America, Taiwan and other countries having fun this year.
"I believe we will have a good chance to get to the final," he added.
Four of Taiwan's 15 diplomatic allies -- Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Paraguay -- are in Latin America, and they are all participating in the tournament, which is being held on the campus of Fu Jen Catholic University in Xinzhuang, New Taipei, with free admission.