From Cuju to World Cup: One football dream

3 December 2022

A news report from on the World Cup and China's football development:The quadrennial FIFA World Cup is in full swing in Qatar. A few days into the event, audiences worldwide have already witnessed some big upsets. But upsets are nothing new to us, since uncertainties have always been one of the charms of football — nothing is impossible as long as one tries hard.In this World Cup, Team China didn't qualify. But on the opening match, three Chinese teenagers served as the FIFA flag bearers. The 3 young football players are currently training outside China, and like they said, standing on the pitch of the World Cup has made them even more determined to fight for Team China in this phenomenal event one day.

Bet you didn't know that China is the cradle of ancient football. In "Zhanguoce", a collection of anecdotal histories from the Warring States period (475-221 BC), there was a description of the ancient city Linzi in today's Shandong province, saying it's "rich and abundant, and that only few of its people couldn't taju." Taju, also known as Cuju, is the archaic term for "football". Cuju was trendy for over a thousand years in ancient China; however, in Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), the sport lost its popularity. After modern football was introduced to China, the country established its national football team, founded the Chinese Football Association, joined FIFA, and competed in numerous international football matches. While the Chinese women's national football team has maintained a stellar CV, including a runner-up at the FIFA Women's World Cup, the men's national football team has failed to qualify for five FIFA World Cups. Competing in the World Cup has been a longstanding wish of all avid football fans in China, and despite the challenges, the Chinese people have remained passionate and hopeful for the future of China's football.

In 2015, the Overall Plan for Chinese Football Reform and Development was issued, providing a macro roadmap for the sport's development. Besides the focus on professional players in the national teams and football clubs, cultivating a community vibe for football also became an important task. Currently, over 30,000 schools in China are qualified as characterised campus-football schools; by 2025, this number is estimated to reach 50,000. In July, 2022, the first China Youth Football League opened, where young football players from professional football schools and normal schools compete on the same pitch. It means teenagers no longer have to choose between school work and football — they can do both. Apart from schools, quite a lot of companies and other organizations in China have also established their own amateur football teams, so that people could play football for recreation. What's more, football pitches are no longer rare in China: In residential complexes in Beijing, in the countryside of Guangxi, and along the snowy mountains of Tibet, green pitches and football fanatics running back and forth are everywhere to be seen. The increasing number of football fields has guaranteed the development of the game. With this atmosphere, one has reason to believe the spectacle where "only few couldn't play football" will reappear before long.

In matches, people represent their own nations. But their love for football and displays of sportsmanship unite all peoples. Hope China truly enjoy the football and develop football along with other parts of the world.

China Mosaic

From Cuju to World Cup: One football dream