The Cunchao football game: Passion beyond a sport

BEIJING, June 21, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from on the “Cunchao” football game in Guizhou:


On a standard football pitch, players were bringing their A-game: Rainbow kicks, long free kick goals… One would naturally think it’s an international football game, right?

By the pitch side, audiences of all age groups were cheering for their favorite teams, while relishing glutinous rice and corned fish, Chinese bayberries and watermelons. During half-time, performances like the Grand Song of the Dong ethnic group, and the Lusheng dance of the Miao ethnic group were on show, and children held a runway show just on the pitch with their traditional ethnic costumes on — every spectacle spells “down-to-earth.”

The mixture of professional moves and earthly styles reflected the real identity of the event — a village football super league, the VSL, or, Cunchao. Currently, the game is going on in Rongjiang County, Guizhou Province, and it’s scheduled to last until the end of July.

The players come from various ethnic groups such as Miao, Dong, Shui, Han, and Yao; and from all walks of life: Vegetable vendors, fish sellers, teachers, entrepreneurs… Despite all that, when they put on their team uniforms and walk onto the field, they strive for their common love, football.

Since the first game, people have flocked avidly to the scene. Nearly 50,000 spectators were once attracted to just one game. In the sea of people, some even carried their own ladders to secure a better view. Even Han Qiaosheng, a famous Chinese sports commentator who came to Rongjiang for the Cunchao game, had to climb onto a higher platform to finish his job. Touched by such a grand scene and passionate vibes, football star Michael Owen shared a video, sending his compliments and congratulations on the game.

The term “Cunchao” has only gone viral this summer, but the development of football in Rongjiang County dates way back to the 1940s. Back then, villagers made appointments to “play football together,” which could happen on any surface —whether it was on a grassland by the river or on a concrete courtyard; they used branches to mark out gates and drew the court lines with lime stones. These crude conditions stopped no one.

Now, such spartan times are yesterday’s history, and villagers no longer have to worry about whether they could afford food on their plate or clothes on their back. They have more confidence in their lives, and better things to pursue. At present, Rongjiang County boasts 14 standard football fields, all of them open for free; every village has its own football team or even teams, with over 1,000 players registered in the county. Let’s “play football together”— a line villagers have repeatedly said for over eight decades, has taken on an evolving implication with time. The vigor of rural life as well as people’s hopes for the future have been brought out to the fullest on this Cunchao game.

Last year, the village basketball tournament in Guizhou also went viral. This year, this basketball event has received its “official appreciation” from China’s relevant authorities, and is planning on holding more games throughout the country. It is said, Rongjiang is also going to invite amateur football teams from other villages to compete, and share their experience. These moves are not intended for more gold medals or trophies, but as a sincere wish for more ordinary people to participate in sporting events, enjoy sports and live a healthy life.

More wonderful sports games like Cunchao can be expected, as well as a more harmonious and beautiful countryside.

China Mosaic

The Cunchao football game: Passion beyond a sport