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Kaka gets a kick out of Village Super League

By Li Yingxue | | Updated: 2024-05-30 22:45
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Kaka (left) celebrates with teammates at a charity soccer game in Rongjiang, Guizhou province, on Monday. YANG WENBIN / XINHUA

The Village Super League soccer tournament in Rongjiang county, Guizhou province captured widespread attention again this week with the arrival of former Brazilian soccer star Ricardo Kaka.

Kaka's visit was part of the Chasing Dreams girls' soccer championship charity project.

On Monday evening, at the Village Super League grounds, Kaka served as the honorary coach of a girls' soccer team for a match.

The young players, familiar with each other's strategies and skills, played an intensely competitive game, which ended in a 0:0 draw.

Kaka said he was honored to come to China to participate in the charitable event and inspire young soccer enthusiasts. He said soccer is more than just a sport because it carries the power of love and hope. In Rongjiang, he sees a bright future for Chinese women's soccer.

"I want to help these girls, these boys and the young generation here in China to achieve their goals," he said.

Regarding the development of youth soccer in Rongjiang, Kaka highlighted the importance of fostering a passion for the sport. He recommended focusing on nurturing children's enthusiasm for the sport, providing more training opportunities and improving infrastructure.

"I hope one day I can come back and have more time to see the good things from this area," he said.

The Chasing Dreams girls' soccer championship charity project was launched last July in Rongjiang, providing local youth with long-term coaching, training equipment and support. The squad now boasts 106 players, selected from girls born in Rongjiang between 2012 and 2015.

Following the girls' soccer match, Kaka treated the fans to a display of his soccer prowess. Leading and captaining the "Kaka and his champion partners" team, they faced off against a team coached by Hong Kong television host and racehorse trainer Natalis Chan.

Both sides featured a blend of Olympic champions, former national team players, renowned figures from the arts and sports, representatives from charitable organizations, and Village Super League players.

Kaka scored in the 36th minute of the game, evoking memories of his glory days playing for AC Milan, when he was known as the "Prince of San Siro".

Dong Yongheng, a 35-year-old Village Super League player and captain of Zhongcheng Village Football Team in Rongjiang, said Kaka's involvement in the charity match capped the league's first anniversary celebration. He said it will elevate the brand influence of the Village Super League, dubbed cunchao by Chinese internet users, drawing attention from both domestic and international audiences and propelling its global expansion.

He said he is also eagerly anticipating a Belt and Road Village Super League friendship match in the second half of the year.

The Village Super League, initiated by 20 village teams in Rongjiang, kicked off on May 13 last year. Since then, it has gained widespread attention and become a sensation in the world of amateur soccer.

At the end of last year, it partnered with the English Premier League, collaborating on coach training and other initiatives. In February, it hosted its first international event, with Village Super League teams competing against young soccer players from France.

The hit travel reality show HAHAHAHAHA, featuring former soccer player and coach Fan Zhiyi, also visited Rongjiang to film a match between celebrities and local players while showcasing the region's unique landscapes and culture.

During the 2023 Village Super League, Rongjiang welcomed millions of tourists, including a significant number of foreigners, said Lai Hongjing, a member of the league's organizing committee and a physical education teacher at Rongjiang First Middle School.

The event's growth not only offers locals a chance to see the world but also serves as a valuable platform for China's grassroots diplomacy, Lai said.

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