China's hottest grassroots basketball game is set to expand its reach to villages nationwide. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the General Administration of Sport announced on Wednesday that the country's first village basketball competition will be held starting from June, aimed not only at enriching the leisure activities of rural residents but also at promoting rural revitalization and the construction of a strong agricultural nation.
The grassroots basketball tournament, which originated in Taipan village, Taijiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, has become a phenomenon since last year. Audiences hailed it as the "Village Basketball Association," or "Village BA," putting it on par with the National Basketball Association, the highest level of basketball competition in the world.
Recent data showed that there had been more than 5,000 village basketball matches by the end of March this year in Guizhou, with nearly 180 village teams taking part.
The game has also gone viral across the country in a short period of time, attracting more than 20,000 spectators per game and more than 100 million online views.
It captivates people's attention not only with the exciting matches but also with the primitive basketball court nestled in a remote village valley surrounded by farmland. There, local residents, dressed in traditional costumes, cheer for the athletes by knocking on iron pots and bowls as well as performing folk songs and dances as half-time shows.
Moreover, ethnic and rural cultures that are interwoven in the competition, such as Guizhou-dialect live commentary, traditional Miao-style dances and prizes of local agricultural products, are appreciated by the spectators.
"This is the charm of basketball itself, which not only allows people to enjoy the sports but also spreads local customs and traditions to the entire country and even the world," wrote a netizen on the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo.
"With the organization and promotion of the central government, Village BA is bound to become increasingly fun and enjoyable," Luo Taotao, a 24-year-old Village BA player in Guizhou, who also works as a physical education teacher in a local primary school, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The holding of Village BA competition allows us to truly understand that the government values what the people real need, he added.
The tournament made up of three stages, including grassroots, regional and final. It will take place over a period of four months starting from June, with the final tournament scheduled to be held in Taijiang county in October.
Villages nationwide are encouraged to integrate the tournament with agricultural activities, folk festivals and rural customs, as well as combine them with showcasing local culture, promoting agricultural products and rural tourism, so as to fully demonstrate the favorable aspects of rural areas, read the statement.
Yao Ming, chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association, said in an interview in 2022 that Village BA can become widely known because it is not simply a basketball game, but a grand event gathering all neighboring villagers around the basketball court to enjoy the fun.
"I took part in a similar rural basketball game in Southeast China in my teen years," said Yao. "This kind of game has been developed for decades, showing basketball is a sport with extensive participation."
Yao also desires to attend the event if possible and experience the warm atmosphere there with villagers. He hopes the game will get better and help with the development of basketball in China.
It is estimated that Taipan village attracted about 500,000 visitors during last summer's preliminary rounds of the Village BA tournament, which generated tourism revenue of more than 40 million yuan ($5.8 million).
Riding the wave of Village BA, many local youngsters who used to work in big cities have returned to their hometowns to seek better job opportunities.
Insiders say that Taipan has become a model place of rural rejuvenation driven by the sports industry and in the future, the Village BA has the potential to grow into a nationwide competition, boosting the awareness and prospects of townships and small cities.
"Everything is on the rise here. I'm so glad that the event is now helping the development of the village and motivates more people to embrace sports not only in Guizhou, but across the country," said a local villager.