Feature: Football kindles children's passion in ethnic minority areas of southwest China

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-01 12:28:52|Editor: Yurou
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By sportswriter Li Hualiang, Wu Guangyu

CHENGDU, Jun 1 (Xinhua) -- When 11-year-old Azuowule finished his football practice, the rain that had lasted for three days finally stopped and the cloud which surrounded his Wawu primary school dissipated.

Wawu primary school is 2,700 meters above sea level, located on a high mountain in Abingluogu village in Zhaojue County, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, a place in deep poverty and ravaged by drugs once.


Azuowule grew up with his grandmother, and he can't remember his father's look. Even his mother's face is blurry in his mind because she remarried a long time ago and they only meet once a year.

As the only certified teacher in Wawu primary school, Qubishigu still remembers how Azuowule looked like when he saw the little boy for the first time. "He was thin and preoccupied with his head always down," Qubishigu said.

"Come on boy. Let's play football together! " Qubishigu said to Azuowule one day. From then on, the little boy stuck to football training almost every day. The path out of the school gate was his runway and the hillside behind the classrooms became the boy's training ground.

After two years, Azuowule grew taller and stronger, and his smile became a regular feature on his face since football has always by his side.

For the students in Wawu primary school, football is not only a sport but also a bridge connecting to the outside world.

In the summer of 2018, they got on the train for the first time and saw the Nanjing city which was described only in their textbook. The little footballers from Wawu primary school had a friendly match with the U-13 team of Jiangsu Suning in Chinese Super League there.

"We Yi people have the culture to explore varieties, but none of my family members has got further than my grandson," Azuowule's grandmother said.

After the trip to Nanjing, Azuowule talked about his dream for the first time. "I want to become a football star like Messi. I want to go to lots of places and compete with different teams. I want to win," he said.


40-year-old Qubishigu is the dream maker of Wawu primary school.

When he graduated from college in 2003, this school was a teaching site that could disappear at any moment. At that time, the classroom was modified from a cowshed and barely had equipment.

"We have no need for teachers. Even herding cattle and sheep is better than studying," a villager said with contempt when Qubishigu arrived.

Qubishigu felt more sad than angry when he heard that. "There will be no hope in a place where education is not valued. I'm a college graduate of Yi nationality and I must come forward," he said. Then he stayed and renovated the classroom, retrieving children who dropped out of school from door to door.

He was late only once in the past 16 years because he fell into a river accidentally after heavy rain. Although he was late for half a day, his students waited for him with no one absent.

Except for the study, life at school could be dull. As a football fan, Qubishigu got an idea about bring football to the school when he saw students run on the hillside for fun.

He found some training materials related to football and became the coach of the Wawu primary school football team which was the first football team of primary school in Zhaojue County.

In 2017, with the support of the Zhaojue County government and a Shenzhen enterprise, the new campus of Wawu Primary School, which cost about 1.2 million yuan (173,845 U.S. dollars), was completed.

The story of that football team gradually spread and the school received support from outside the county. Thus the students got a new football field and football shoes.

On May 28, Wawu primary school football team lost a match after they walked eight-kilometer mountain trail to the county town. "One can truly find the direction of the dream only after tasting the failure." Qubishigu consoled his team members.

Qubishigu has a goal for the team. "We want to be top three of Zhaojue County primary school football league in three years and enter the national primary school football league in eight years," he said.


After 16 years, the teacher has become more and more welcome here. Qubishigu no longer has to persuade parents to send their children to school. The number of students in Wawu primary school has risen from four to 247. Also, three college students graduated from this school, one of whom was about to return to become a teacher.

The seeds of football also rooted here. A football team has been formed in every grade of Wawu primary school, including teams for female players.

When the 14-year-old Emuyouluo went to the county town for the first time to play the game, she was surrounded by the girls who watched the match. "You are amazing. We also want to play football," they said.

According to Qubishigu, the purpose of football or even education is to make a gradual change from humble beginnings. Making the school into a place full of dreams is his original aspiration.

All of progress made the villagers aware of education's ability to change destiny. A young man who used to take drugs quit his addiction and worked outside for many years. In his opinion, he went astray in the first place because he did not go to school. Although life is difficult, a mother who brought up four children, wanted her children to go to school.

The Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture is next to Yunnan Province and borders the Golden Triangle. To a certain extent, football has helped the children here walk out of a past with poverty and drugs.

"I believe that football will change the students' life. Football is a kind of education which teaches them to be strong and responsible for every one of their choices. What is more, football is a cure to Liangshan which will help this place walk out of poverty and say goodbye to drugs," Qubishigu said.