Sensational 'Village Super League' in SW China attracts sizzling influx of tourists, boosts local economy
Sports carnival boosts local economy, promotes rural revitalization
Published: Jun 20, 2023 08:48 PM
Villagers of Dong ethnic group wearing festive ethnic dress perform singing during the halftime of the Village Super League football match in Rongjiang County of southwest China's Guizhou Province, June 17, 2023. Villagers spontaneously wear ethnic dress and perform singing and dancing on every match day on weekends. (Xinhua/Yang Wenbin)

Villagers of Dong ethnic group wearing festive ethnic dress perform singing during the halftime of the "Village Super League" football match in Rongjiang County of southwest China's Guizhou Province, June 17, 2023. Villagers spontaneously wear ethnic dress and perform singing and dancing on every match day on weekends. Photo:Xinhua

Hotels are full, local specialties are nearly sold out, tourists came in droves from all parts of China…Rongjiang, a small county in a remote mountainous area with a population of less than 400,000 in Southwest China, has recently become a hotspot for its "Village Super League [VSL]," creating the sensational sports carnival in China.

Rural sports phenomenon - both "Village Basketball Association [Village BA]" and the "Village Super League" craze - has swept China. Rongjiang, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, holds the VSL every week recently with thousands of people watching each event as well as billions of views online.

While enriching the leisure activities of rural residents, such sensational sports event also promotes rural revitalization. Full of joy and praise, with vivid living culture, the village sports created a miracle, effectively driving the development of local tourism, culture and the economy, much like Taipan county with Village BA.

When arriving at Rongjiang on Sunday when the county held its weekly football super league, the Global Times reporters were shocked by the bustling atmosphere. A lot of people took their families and sat around the court; some local villagers brought their homemade snacks and shared them to audiences around; massive of media outlets reporters across the country also flocked to the county to cover the spectacular event.

The football super league is held every Friday to Sunday. No tickets or reservations are required, and anyone who is interested in the sports event can just come. 

Thanks for the VSL craze, football is not only a sport that makes people's blood run fast, but also fosters a sense of community as these tournaments truly belong to the local people. The VSL craze also radiates from football to surrounding fields such as accommodation, catering, and local specialty selling.

On multiple travel platforms, hotels during the approaching traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival holiday (June 22-24) are seen almost fully booked. Local officials in Rongjiang and Qiandongnan scrambled to help tourists find hotels with available rooms.

The Global Times learnt from China's major travel platform that during the festival holiday, the reservation volume of Rongjiang hotels increased 15 times compared with the same period in 2019, but the average booking price per night stays not high — 257 yuan ($35.82).

But the extremely busy situation cannot restrain the passion of more people. The Global Times reporters found in the county that many outsiders came to Rongjiang although failing to book a hotel room, instead, they found local homestays via social media platforms or their friends. Two young women were enjoying their supper at a snack stand when approached by a Global Times reporter. One of the young women from Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality told the Global Times that they two were strangers before she came to the county, but the other local young woman invited her to stay at her home after they got to know each other through their common friend.

This has become a fashion recently in the county with hospitable locals inviting outsiders to stay at their home given that many hotels are filled to capacity. Locals in Rongjiang as well as nearby villagers voluntarily take their responsibilities to host the nationwide guests.
Also, the county launched the VSL's Weekly, which publishes the game schedule, the memorable moments from the game, and introduces the scenery and folk customs of Rongjiang county. The weekly newspapers are available in many local hotels.

Near the county stadium where the super league is held, it is extremely lively. The county government has set up booths outside the stadium for local sellers to use for free. Recently the number of stalls increased from 300 to 500. Many stall owners said that their products and snacks have remained at the same fair price.

A stall owner surnamed Xiong said that her voice is very hoarse these days because she was a cheerleader for the football event and her stainless-steel basin which she used to cheer up for football players has been knocked to dented.

In her spare time, Xiong also kept an eye on her watermelon and bayberries stall, and in the last month, she sold tens of thousands of pounds of watermelon.

Xiong's own watermelons have been sold out, and she helped other villagers sell watermelons these days as the young woman felt it is her responsibility.

In the face of the business opportunities brought by the sports carnival, many locals behave very calmly, and they even cut prices of their products.

According to the China Youth Daily, a kind of local handmade blue-dye T-shirt was sold for more than 200 yuan in the past. But recently the handmade VSL-themed blue-dye T-shirt only was sold at more than 100 yuan. In the last two weekends, 300 to 400 such T-shirts have been sold at the football game stadium, whereas in previous years, only about 100 units of the blue-dye shirts had been sold a year.

As the Dragon Boat Festival approaches on Thursday, former Chinese men's football team captain Fan Zhiyi will also lead a local football team from Northwest China's Qinghai Province to Rongjiang and play a match in the county during the holiday.

"Seeing the Village Super League, it seems to return to my year [when I was playing football on the court], even when there was no such craze as now!" Fan said in a video recently.

On July 28, Rongjiang VSL will usher in the finals. The county has extended invitations to village football teams outside Rongjiang to transform the village football game into a nationwide competition. More than 500 teams have signed up for the games, the China Youth Daily reported.

Just like the previous phenomenal city Zibo, East China's Shandong Province, which became a smash hit because of its unique barbecue, this time, Rongjiang can be seen as another epitome of the whole China for their aspiration to seek development opportunities. With the determination of its government and concerted efforts of local people, this remote county is making every effort to grasp the flourish.