Grassroots soccer league ‘Cunchao’ to kick off new season
Published: Jan 04, 2024 11:01 PM
People watch a

People watch a "Cunchao" match in Rongjiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, in October 2023. Photo: VCG

The 2024 season of the Village Super League, or Cunchao, in Rongjiang county of Southwest China's Guizhou Province will kick off on Saturday, president of the county's soccer governing body, announced on Thursday.

Expanding from 20 teams in 2023, more than 1,800 players from 62 local teams will participate in the preliminary round and 20 teams will progress to the final stage to fight for the title from March to May. 

The group stage draw for the new season was completed on Thursday as the addition of new teams will heat up the competition, Li Mingxing, president of the Rongjiang County Soccer Association, told the Global Times. 

"Many village teams missed the registration window for last year's competition, but this year's event almost includes all the village teams in the county. All the teams are divided into 10 groups in the preliminary stage, with the top two from each group advancing to the knockout stage," said Li. 

Rongjiang has a population of 385,000, among which at least 50,000 residents play soccer regu-larly. The tournament is also a window to showcase local ethnic culture and folk customs as ethnic performances and cuisine festivals are to be held along with the soccer league's matches. 

Li Sha, one of the members of the Cunchao organizing committee and director of the county cul-tural center, said that the participation of more village teams will stimulate the cultural creative in-stinct of the people in Rongjiang.

"This year will see more village teams and cheerleaders engaging in the event. They will create an even more diverse and colorful cultural feast," Li said.

The grassroots soccer tournament became a national sensation in 2023 as it amassed more than 5.8 billion views across social media platforms between May 13 and October 28, enticing 5.19 million tourists to Guizhou and chalking up a gross tourism income of 5.99 billion yuan ($845 million).

Moreover, Cunchao was listed as one of 2023's top 10 Chinese buzzwords released by the linguis-tics journal Yaowen Jiaozi. The league also made the headlines on the international stage as it struck up a groundbreaking partnership with the English Premier League in September 2023. 

The first partnership project, named "Premier Skills," kicked off in December 2023 as 44 soccer coaches from local schools in Rongjiang took part in soccer clinics conducted by the British Coun-cil's soccer development manager. 

As a result, Cunchao has already become a phenomenal hit in China. Next, the tournament aims to engage in global communities to participate in the soccer showpiece, Xu Bo, the magistrate of Rongjiang, told the Xinhua News Agency.

"We plan to hold a Belt and Road friendly tournament in October and it will be developed into a grassroots world cup in three years. Community teams from around the world will be invited to Rongjiang to share the joy of soccer together," Xu noted.

The league is also part of China's continuous efforts and achievements in targeting wider public engagement in sport, comprehensively promoting rural vitalization, officials said.