Telum Talks To...Owain Lacey, Co-Founder, From the Tofu Bowl

Telum Talks To...Owain Lacey, Co-Founder, From the Tofu Bowl

Two Britons met in Taipei over their shared passion for local football, and end up founding a football news website, From the Tofu Bowl, together. For a site that covers football in the whole East Asia region, how do they keep track of all the happenings and cover relevant stories? Co-Founder Owain Lacey shares his thoughts.

What drew your attention to East Asian football in the first place, and what inspired you to set up the site and name it From the Tofu Bowl?
Growing up in the UK, football was a major part of my life. Everywhere I travelled as a child, I looked to find out about their local football team. I then in 2010 decided to move to Taipei after graduating with a degree in Media Production. Upon arrival, I, of course, looked to find out about the local football scene and this is how I met Mark Henderson who I would later go on to set up From the Tofu Bowl with. As for myself, a Scot, and Mark, a Geordie, we looked to discover more about what Taipei had to offer in terms of football, and we found out pretty quickly the answer was not a lot. This meant our football fixes were found through watching matches in local bars, we then grew a great affection for Lee Chung-yong and from this point, our love for the game in East Asia grew. 
 
As for the name itself, it originally emerged from the fact that Taiwan is famous for their Tofu dishes and as soon as you meet locals one of the questions they ask is, ‘have you tried stinky tofu’, a snack that is as it sounds stinky. We then thought what better name for a football site that originated in Taiwan than From the Tofu Bowl
 
What does From the Tofu Bowl mainly cover? Who is your target audience? And how does the coverage differ from those provided by the major sports news outlets?
We look to cover football all over East Asia and we like to bring news that English language news does not often cover. It is not a site for match reports or transfer news as we look to bring readers knowledge of what is happening in East Asian football. This could be from looking at Ulsan’s new mascot or how the Mongolian football league is shaping up. The site is then not necessarily for first language English speakers but for people that want to discover more about football in a region that does not get a lot of worldwide coverage outside of World Cups. 
 
We like to think we differ from major news outlets as we will at times say things that some people may disagree with, but we will always back this up with facts. For example, we will talk about Hong Kong and the booing of the National Anthem and will not try and sugar coat this. Along with serious stories we like to take a fun look at football in the region in a way other news outlets may not feel they have the audience to do so. 
 
The football world in East Asia is a broad subject to cover. How could you keep track of everything that’s going on in every country, and how would you decide what to cover/comment on?
Football in East Asia is very broad and when football is happening across the region we do mostly look at the major leagues in China, Japan and South Korea. We always like to cover news in Mongolia for example but this takes a lot of research as there is very little coverage of this that is not in Mongolian. As for North Korea, when possible, we look to discuss the football scene in a country that is very hard to gain access to. One thing we are proud of is that we bring news from all the nations and regions and for example, we talk about football in Guam and Macau where there is very little written about them. 
 
In terms of how we pick on what to report, with myself and Mark being the main contributors, we do have to at times pick and choose quite harshly what we feel our audience would like to hear about. This is a reason why we would love to grow the site with a media company on board as at that point we would be able to cover the full region in more depth which would educate our audience further and, we feel, entertain and interest them. 
 
How does the editorial team at From the Tofu Bowl operate?
If we have a guest writer come in, it will be me who will look through the article before we put this live. In terms of our own stories, Mark and I are in constant contact about the best stories to cover and we work with each other on who will be the best to write about for a certain story. As we do not make money from the site, this can be very time-consuming and when we are both very busy at work, we have fewer stories being published as we always want to see quality over quantity.
 
How can PR professionals best help you when pitching stories or trying to get in touch?
In terms of PR professionals, they could help enormously with the site from providing us stories that will interest our audience or by giving us a look at an aspect of football in the region we did not know about. It is also very easy to get in touch with us through all our social media channels or on the contact page on the site. 
 
Aside from local interest, how would East Asian football be of interest to a larger readership?
East Asian football is full of talent and passion, away from the countries themselves a larger audience who love football will find many things that attract them to this region. This could be seen from the passion in the J.League, the growing of a whole new football identity in Taiwan or just how a tiny tropical island such as Guam is even able to run a national side. 
 
Is there one national football scene in East Asia that is little known to the outside world, but you would recommend all football fans out there to follow?
For big football fans out there I am sure they will know parts about the football enthusiasm in Asia, such as Japan supporters having a great passion and great manners. Although the one that stands out for me that I think a global audience would love is the story of Kashiwa Reysol, a club in the Japan J1 League. Just as Borussia Dortmund in Germany they have their own yellow wall. This is seen as the fans of the club stand behind the goals with fans that chant and sing throughout the match and if you are not wearing yellow, you are not getting in or you are given a yellow poncho to wear for the match. 

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