Village Super League final lights up national enthusiasm for soccer, demonstrates rural revitalization achievements
Innovation based on China's successful rural revitalization: experts
Published: Jul 30, 2023 10:18 PM Updated: Jul 30, 2023 10:16 PM
Fans and tourists watch a

Fans and tourists watch a "Village Super League" match in Rongjiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province on July 28, 2023. More than 150,000 tourists and soccer fans from across the country and overseas headed to the county for the event. Photo: IC

The final game of the "Village Super League," known in Chinese as Cunchao, in Rongjiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, ended on Saturday, with more than 150,000 tourists and soccer fans across the country and overseas heading to the small county for the exciting event. 

Visitors could gather around the open-air playground to watch the game for free, as long as they could find a place to set foot in the crowded audience. Millions of people also watched the game online, while hundreds of journalists, social media celebrities and sports commentators reported, supported and enjoyed the game.

"The Cunchao final was just like the World Cup final last year," said many soccer fans who watched the game in the Village Super League Stadium, as the two teams - Chejiang First Village and Zhongcheng Village - presented a dramatic game that saw them both score in the first 2 minutes. The 90-minute regular time ended with a tie of 2:2 as Chejiang Village scored a goal in nearly the last minute to equalize the score, leading the game to enter an exciting shootout. 

The Chejiang First Village won the final to take home a live yellow bull as a prize, while runner-up Zhongcheng Village won three goats and top scorer Dong Yongheng of Zhongcheng got four pheasants for his efforts. After the awards ceremony, more than 10,000 villagers performed folk songs and dances of the local Dong ethnic minority in the stadium, and supporters of each village team brought homemade snacks to share with other fans.

Teachers, policemen, farmers, students and restaurant owners... the players on the ground were all amateur players. All of this came together to form a very unique and charming atmosphere for the event.

"Chinese soccer, especially the men's national soccer team, has gotten enough criticism due to long-existing corruption problems and poor performances in international matches, so let the pureness of the Village Super League bring everyone's pure passion and confidence back. At least, let's make our people love to play soccer and get more children interested in playing soccer," Han Qiaosheng, a TV sports commentator, told the Global Times.

This grass-roots and down-to-earth soccer tournament has already been held in Rongjiang county for 14 years, yet it has only recently lit up the country's enthusiasm for soccer. As to the reasons behind the overnight popularity, analysts and sports professionals say that the developed infrastructure that China has built in rural regions over the past decades has allowed people across the country to be able to arrive by safe, efficient and economic means to places like Rongjiang, which used to be isolated from urban areas due to geographical conditions.

China's comprehensive and advanced 5G network also allowed millions of people to be able to not only watch the game online, but also learn about the charming local ethnic cultural performances, delicious and attractive food and agricultural products, experts said. More importantly, the local government has tried to innovatively encourage locals to confidently present all of these local flavors to the whole nation and the world. This entire event has been supported by the whole nation and protected by authorities at all levels, from county to the province and even the central government. 

According to data provided by the Rongjiang county government, every weekend when these "Super Saturday" games kick off, at least 50,000 people come to the stadium to watch the matches. The final on Saturday, apart from people within the stadium, there were 100,000 tourists watching the game on TV in restaurants, hotels and open-air food stalls around the stadium.

Since May 13, the hotel and lodging industry in the county has brought in 37.14 million yuan ($5.2 million), a 172.6 percent year-on-year growth. By July 23, Rongjiang had already attracted 2.5 million visitors, while the tourism industry had earned more than 2.8 billion yuan in income, according to data from the local government. 

Li Xiang, a Beijing-based journalist and commentator who traveled to the country to report on the final, told the Global Times on Sunday that this remarkable achievement is sure to make Rongjiang realize sustainable growth. 

Apart from the Village Super League in Rongjiang county, another county named Congjiang, also in Guizhou Province, has already established the Village Basketball Association, or Village BA, to attract a similar amount of attention and receive huge economic benefits from the sport. Experts said counties in Guizhou Province like Rongjiang and Congjiang are setting the example for Chinese rural areas about how to better use China's mature infrastructure and developed social media networks and connect with the outside world through local traditional, ethnic and cultural features to bring about huge economic benefits.

Li said this experience is unique and cannot be fully copied, and other Chinese rural areas should find their own characteristics and advantages to transform rural revitalization achievements into more opportunities in the new era.