Feature: China's Village Super League provides stage for international football exchanges

(Xinhua) 10:24, June 04, 2024

GUIYANG, China, June 4 (Xinhua) -- On International Children's Day, Italian football legend Fabio Cannavaro visited China's Village Super League (VSL) and was impressed by the local people's passion and enthusiasm for football.

The VSL, also known as "Cun Chao," was initiated in Rongjiang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province in 2023 and quickly became a hit in China and globally for its popularity, down-to-earth nature, and festive atmosphere.

At the end of May, former Brazilian football star Kaka also visited the VSL and joined a friendly match with Chinese football enthusiasts in Rongjiang.

"It was a great experience to come here, receive all the caring and love from the people, and be with these people to enjoy this time together," said Kaka.


As the VSL gained popularity, Rongjiang has received millions of tourists and football enthusiasts since 2023. However, it was the first time the small mountainous county welcomed international football superstars.

Despite being a workday, the stadium was filled with tourists before Kaka's arrival. When the Brazilian football star walked out of the players' tunnel with a smile, local fans and spectators burst into cheers.

Kaka said in a video that he was invited by the China Friendship Foundation for Peace and Development and a Chinese smartphone brand to participate in the "Chasing Dreams" charity football event, aimed at boosting the development of local youth football and the VSL.

During his stay in Rongjiang, Kaka watched a match featuring students from elementary schools in the county.

"In Brazil, we grew up playing football on the beach, playing with friends, so football is part of our culture; what I saw here, it's quite the same," said Kaka, adding that it was important to promote football with the younger generation, and it was really nice to see girls playing football and trying to chase their dreams in Rongjiang.

"I thought the love for the game was really important, and I saw those girls love the game. For me, it's a great experience to come to China and be an ambassador to inspire the young generation to play football and help them achieve their dreams," he added.

On Saturday, two primary school students from Rongjiang County, members of the "Chasing Dream" football team, were invited to watch the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in London.

Long Tongyi, a 10-year-old girl from Guzhou Town Second Primary School, said she started playing football in third grade and admired Kaka for his excellent skills.

Despite playing football for just one year, Long believes she is not far from her dream of becoming a professional footballer. As the only girl in her family to play football, she used her grades to prove to her initially skeptical parents that playing football would not affect her studies but make her more disciplined.

"In order to practice football, I would wake up early in the morning and do math exercises after training," Long said.

Dong Yongheng, a VSL player and a big fan of Kaka, said that although many stars have visited Cun Chao over the past year, he was still excited to see Kaka in his hometown. He believed that Kaka's visit would enhance the VSL's brand influence and attract more attention to this rural football event.

Cun Chao has expanded opportunities for local people to see the world and built a platform for global people-to-people exchanges, said Lai Hongjing, a member of Cun Chao's organizing committee and a physical education teacher at Rongjiang No. 1 High School.


Since its inception, Cun Chao has expanded its social circles and captured the attention of foreign football teams, such as the French youth team and the Liberian Federation Football team, initiating friendly matches with local teams.

In early May, a friendly match between the Liberia Community Football Team from Africa and the Liaoning Donggang Football Team from China was held at the VSL football court.

Moses Barclay, an official at the Liberian Embassy in China for eight years, said the people in Rongjiang loved football, and the atmosphere was very impressive.

"There are many countries in Africa that love to play football. Through football events, Africa could better connect and unite with Rongjiang and with China," said Barclay, adding that he hoped that more Liberian teams, including its national team, could play football in Rongjiang.

The final of the first edition of the African VSL also kicked off this May in Parakou, Benin. Villagers traveled on motorcycles with their children to watch the matches.

"In the future, we might send top village players to Guizhou, the birthplace of the Village Super League, to compete with local teams," said Shou Xiaoyong, initiator of the African VSL and head of the Chinese technical team to Benin.

According to organizers, Cun Chao will host friendly matches with football teams from Belt and Road countries in the second half of 2024.

Xu Bo, head of the county government, said that Cun Chao has captured the attention of local people and football enthusiasts from across the country. Now the county works on attracting people from all over the world to enjoy the event together.

"At that time, Cun Chao will be more influential and further help enhance the friendship between China and the rest of the world," echoed VSL player Dong Yongheng.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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