Rural vitality behind the craze of village basketball and football tournament

A village football tournament held in southwest China's Guizhou Province has captured the attention of media, social platforms and even overseas stars, showing the booming sports and cultural development amid the country's rural revitalization drive.

Organized and played by locals, the amateur football tournament has been dubbed "Cun Chao" by Chinese netizens, which translates to "Village Super League."

On the Chinese Twitter-like social media platform Weibo, the hashtags and topics related to "Cun Chao" have garnered more than 200 million views, and several videos of "Cun Chao" have received millions of likes on the short video platform Douyin.

Former England star Michael Owen recorded a video to show his support for the tournament. "I want to say congratulations to 'Cun Chao' for all your success, for getting all the good results in football. I wish 'Cun Chao' all the very best for the future. I'm sure you gonna get better and better."

Besides the players coming from diverse backgrounds including vendors, farmers and factory workers, the average attendance of "Cun Chao" matches has exceeded 10,000, putting it on par with the country's professional league, the Chinese Super League.

The "Cun Chao" is scheduled to last from May 13 to July 29. 

Read more:

'Village Super League' adds vigor to rural revitalization in China 

People watch a
People watch a "CunBA" in southwest China's Guizhou Province, March 26, 2023. /CFP

People watch a "CunBA" in southwest China's Guizhou Province, March 26, 2023. /CFP

"Cun Chao" is just the latest rural sports phenomenon that has swept China. Another one is "CunBA" - a village basketball tournament held in Guizhou Province.

The "CunBA" held in Taipan Village in April had attracted at least 20,000 spectators and more than 30 million watching online.

Read more:

Chinese village basketball tournament viewed 1 billion times online

However, they are not new. Residents of Taipan Village have held basketball games annually since 1936 and residents in Rongjiang Country have enjoyed basketball since college students played basketball in the 1940s. 

In recent years, governments at all levels have increased efforts to promote development in rural China, resulting in the expansion and improvement of local sports venues and exercise facilities.

Currently, Rongjiang has more than 30 village football teams and 14 standard football pitches, said Lin Tao, an official at the Rongjiang County government. "The upgrade of sports facilities has laid a solid foundation for events like this to flourish and encourage more people in the countryside to engage in physical activities," Lin added.

People watch a
People watch a "Village Super League" football match in Rongjiang County of southwest China's Guizhou Province, June 9, 2023. /Xinhua

People watch a "Village Super League" football match in Rongjiang County of southwest China's Guizhou Province, June 9, 2023. /Xinhua

The popularity of "CunBA" and "Cun Chao" reflects the strong demand for high-quality cultural outlets in rural areas.

Noting rural revitalization has improved the livelihood of rural residents, Yang Dejiang, head of Taijiang County, said those residents have more energy and economic strength to participate in sports and cultural activities. 

Qin Chuna, a columnist for a Wuhan-based newspaper, echoed Yang, saying that "'CunBA' and 'Cun Chao' represent a vibrant lifestyle filled with rural enjoyment. They are the result of the country's rural revitalization campaign and, in turn, will contribute to rural revitalization."

Taking advantage of the "Cun Chao" craze, the Rongjiang County government is developing local tourism and the economy, much like Taipan County with "CunBA."

"During competition days, two to three hundred stalls have been set up around the stadium to sell local products," said Xiong Zhuqing from Fengle Village, who sells home-grown watermelon. "We can earn up to nearly 4,000 yuan (about $561) in one night."

(With input from Xinhua)

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