By Su Bin, Chen Junyi
Two outdoor basketball courts in a rural village in southwest China’s Guizhou province recently became buzzworthy for holding games with an atmosphere that rival the NBA.
Over ten thousand spectators sat courtside from morning to the next dawn to watch the games, and even at midnight, there were hundreds of thousands watching the games online on livestream platforms.
That’s why people call the games held in the courts “CunBA,” a nickname similar to the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). “Cun” means village in Chinese.
Taipan village, located in Taipan township, Taijiang county, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture of Guizhou, is home to the standard basketball courts. The popular courts are surrounded by spectator areas on three sides, the highest of which has 21 seating rows.
The annual basketball event, or the CunBA, is part of a traditional Miao ethnic harvest festival that falls on the sixth day of the sixth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Other cultural activities are also held during the festival, including horse racing and traditional music performance.
Basketball games are the most attention-grabbing part of the festival.
The enthusiasm for the games was amazing. There was no empty seat in the spectator areas, and many came to the games with their own campstools. Some even climbed up ladders or stood on chairs.
The unique local bullfighting horns, gongs, drums, and even pans and basins were taken to the games for cheering, and with a local accent, emcees commentated on the games. These all made the atmosphere totally comparable to that of professional games.
The CunBA has become sensational and spammed the internet. It was livestreamed by hosts coming from afar and even made its name overseas.
This year’s CunBA, hosted between July 12 and 20, was joined by 176 teams from surrounding villages.
Li Zheng’en, 42, is the main force of Taipan village’s basketball team. He works out of town but comes home every time when the CunBa season starts. This year, he joined the inter-village and middle-aged divisions. After his team was knocked out in the semi-final, he helped maintain order in the spectator areas.
The team of Zhu Guanghua from Tongren, Guizhou, was eliminated in the first round. Attracted by the fiery atmosphere of the CunBA, the 24-year-old young man has decided to start over the next year.
The CunBA is fully run by villagers. Taipan village established a basketball association, and the chairman Cen Jianglong led members to organize the games. Some helped with registration and some purchased sports equipment. The association also designated commentators, scorers and order-maintaining staff.
Most of the referees were also local villagers. For instance, 31-year-old physical education teacher Wu Xiaolong has refereed games in the village for 15 years. Taipan village is home to about a dozen basketball referees who would also help with the games held by neighboring villages.
The games also had halftime shows performed by cheerleaders of Miao ethnic groups, as well as halftime shooting games. Women and children who scored a basket were rewarded with drinks, watermelon, or local specialties.
The village has attracted higher-level basketball events for its strong capability to host games, fair refereeing and enthusiasm for basketball.
On July 30, a prefecture semi-final of a provincial-level basketball championship kicked off in Taipan Village. Sixteen teams mainly consisting of farmers had 27 games in four days.
According to the government of Taipan township, each of the games was watched by over 15,000 spectators on average. A total of more than 100 million people watched the championship online.
The CunBA not only satisfies villagers’ demand for entertainment, but also creates an opportunity for Taipan village to develop sports tourism. During this year’s CunBA, the village set up nearly 500 booths and received 40,000 visits, seeing tourism revenue of 21.54 million yuan ($3.12 million). Last year, the per capita income of Taipan village exceeded 13,000 yuan.
In the future, Taipan village will update basketball courts with locker rooms, washrooms and a press room, and widen the channels to the spectator areas. The village is planning to jointly develop sports tourism projects with neighboring villages, and promote the CunBA to a new level.
“We’ll work to make the CunBA more renowned, so as to make Taipan village wealthier,” said Zhang Bin, head of the sports center of Taijiang county.