Village BA: Igniting a basketball revolution in a small village

Zhang Long
Follow the extraordinary journey of the Village Basketball Association (Village BA) as it ignites the spirit of the community and captures the nation's attention.
Zhang Long

In a small village in southwest China's Guizhou Province the "Village Basketball Association" (Village BA) has once again ignited the enthusiasm of the local community.

With the final showdown held on June 11, the tournament gained national attention, with Chinese basketball legend Mengke Bateer as a special guest who presented the championship prize – a farm tractor.

This was China's first "professional" basketball tournament held in a rural area. Astonishingly, 2,624 teams competed in 5,473 matches.

The Village BA has garnered immense online popularity, attracting over 300 million viewers and accumulating a total video playback count of 450 million.

People have been amazed by the teams' make-up, all village enthusiasts who showed a pure passion for the sport; the beautiful court with village houses and mountains as backgrounds; and the sheer number of fans rooting for their teams.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the General Administration of Sport of China have announced plans to organize a nationwide Village Basketball Championship.

Village BA: Igniting a basketball revolution in a small village
Jimu News

One match of the basketball tournament held in March, in Taipan Village, in China's Guizhou Province.

In another village in Guizhou named Taipan, all the players competing, without exception, were villagers who are amateurs, and enthusiasts with other full-time professions.

The population of Taipan is only a little more than 1,000 people, but it presented the basketball matches and surpassed professional tournaments in popularity.

Village BA: Igniting a basketball revolution in a small village

Former foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian tweeted about the village basketball games last July.

It is recorded in the village's annals that local students set up a basketball court in 1936, which later was extended into a stadium.

The basketball tradition in the area has lasted more than eight decades. The locals are now accustomed to having basketball matches accompany almost every traditional festival, and the matches usually go all day.

Village BA: Igniting a basketball revolution in a small village

Audience members cheer for their beloved teams.

Before the basketball tradition went viral on social media, everyone in the village would pitch in and host outsiders who wished to watch matches in the village.

Every year when there is a match at the village, hundreds of basketball teams formed by villagers of Taipan and elsewhere came there to compete. More than 80 percent of young people in the village have chosen to participate in the basketball craze by opening restaurants, B&B style hotels and other related businesses.

Whenever there is a match, the most sought-after item for spectators are foldable ladders. Those without tickets or out of luck borrowing or buying a ladder, had to choose to watch the games from on top of houses, up trees or even on small overlooking hills.

Village BA: Igniting a basketball revolution in a small village

Ladders have become the most sought-after items during game seasons.

The owner of the Basketball Fans' Restaurant in the village said the dozen tables there could each serve 5 to 6 groups of guests. It's normal to have fans enjoying food and chatting with each other at 2 to 3 am.

The owner of the restaurant, surnamed He, 62, retired a few years ago but came back to work ready to cash in on the village's basketball craze. Naming the restaurant after the fans was intended to make the restaurant more relatable to them.

He decided to keep the restaurant's decoration plain to fit with the village and the basketball matches' grassroot's style.

To keep the basketball matches' original flavor, Taipan Village officials have declined many sponsors who wish to have their brands' names appear courtside.

With ever more people wishing to watch the games both live and online, the village plans to keep the games free for everyone to watch, and the audience seats and facilities would be upgraded, said Yang Dezhao, head of Taipan Village.

Only Village Super League can compete basketball tournament's popularity

Another major grassroots' tournament, the Village Super League, has pushed the sporting renown of Guizhou Province even higher.

More than 20 football teams, again of only amateur enthusiasts, are competing in the tournament held in Guizhou Province's Rongjiang County, which will last from May to July.

Village BA: Igniting a basketball revolution in a small village

The grand opening ceremony of the Village Super League games in June.

Thanks to social media, the tournament has even gained an overseas influence. Former English professional footballer Michael Owen expressed his wish earlier this month for the tournament to get better and better.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was also impressed by the games and she posted on her Twitter account about the Village Super League games.

Village BA: Igniting a basketball revolution in a small village

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted about the Village Super League games.

Former Chinese national football team captain Fan Zhiyi said on social media that he's grateful that the Village Super League's invitation for him to watch the games in Guizhou. Fan said people's passion for the sports reminds him of his younger self.

Village BA: Igniting a basketball revolution in a small village

Former Chinese national football team captain Fan Zhiyi said he's happy he had been invited to lead a team in a friendly match with the village's teams from Rongjiang County.

As people's living standards are getting higher by the day, the villagers are simply enjoying sports in the company of others, while showcasing their home's food, clothing, traditions and culture. No matter whether it's basketball or football, the sports event have become a means beyond sports for locals to bond with each other, said Wang Xueli, director of the Sports Industry Development Research Center of Tsinghua University.

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