China’s grassroots soccer league Cunchao kicks up a storm

By Wu Jie (Global Times) 09:34, June 05, 2024

Since its sensational debut in 2023, the grassroots soccer league the Village Super League (VSL) or Cunchao held in Rongjiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, has continued its strong momentum this year with an expanding competition format and growing international exchanges.

The new season kicked off in January with the number of participating teams increasing from 20 last year to 62. After preliminaries and the round of the last 20, the reigning champions Chejiang No.1 village advanced to the last eight on Sunday. The final will take place at the end of July.

Thanks to the universal language of soccer and an increased number of cultural exchanges, the local amateurish league has gained international popularity.

During their recent trip to Rongjiang, Italian soccer legend Fabio Cannavaro and former Brazil star Kaka have been impressed by the locals’ passion for soccer.

A French youth delegation played a friendly game with the local team in February, aiming to strengthen people-to-people exchanges on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France.

The spontaneous organization and participation of the local community are the driving forces that sustain the vitality of this grassroots sports event and the reason behind the local tournament’s increasing popularity around the world.

On the day of a match, villagers dressed in traditional ethnic attire and performed songs and dances, rallying the residents to support their own team. This is one of the ways villagers and their communities find identity and emotional resonance through the game.

Local farmers, chefs, drivers, and residents from all walks of life united in their shared love for soccer, enjoying this vibrant event that fulfilled their demand for cultural enrichment and entertainment.

With a strong sense of participation and pride permeating the atmosphere, the event has become something more than just a soccer competition, evolving into a joyous celebration where local communities revel in the spirit of this “people-centered event.”

This season, public participation in the event has extended to the younger generation, with 30 primary and middle schools across the county organizing their own soccer leagues and injecting fresh energy into the Cunchao.

Based on data from the Rongjiang county’s culture, sports, radio, television and tourism bureau, driven by VSL, Rongjiang received more than 7.6 million tourists (20 times the permanent population of Rongjiang) from May 13, 2023, to May 5, 2024, generating an overall tourism income of over 8.4 billion yuan ($1.2 billion).

In addition to the increased revenue, the event opens a window for the public to learn about the local culture, folk customs and craftsmanship of the intangible cultural heritage, including Dong ethnic embroidery, Miao ethnic silver jewelry forging techniques and wax dyeing art.

The VSL has also piqued foreign visitors’ curiosity about rural China, allowing them to see China's accomplishments in rural revitalization and to learn about Chinese ethnic minorities, thus renewing their perceptions about China.

In an effort to engage the global community, Cunchao will host friendly matches with teams from Belt and Road countries later this year. A friendly series with teams from South China's Guangdong Province, and the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions are also on the agenda.

Local authorities are committed to building Rongjiang into a city of national soccer culture and a sports and cultural tourism destination.

Xu Bo, the magistrate of Rongjiang county, said that Cunchao has captured the attention of local people and soccer fans across the country, adding that now the county is working on attracting people from all over the world to enjoy the event together.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Zhong Wenxing)


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