Source: China State Council Information Office
When the sunrise turned Tengger Desert, China’s fourth-largest desert, into golden, crazy music and shouting cheers began to stir up its passion, Zhang Bin, a football player, caught a long pass and scored the third goal for his team.
“I feel quite excited! It’s much more difficult to move on the soft sand than on a football pitch, but I feel more relaxed and I can run freely with bare feet, to enjoy the different charm of sports,” said the 33-year old.
Zhang, a football coach of teenagers in a local sports school, once helped gain fourth place with his team in the 2019 national beach football contest held by the Chinese Football Association. This time, his group beat their opponents 4-1 with a good start on the first day of the 2020 Ningxia desert sports contest.
The contest was held at the famous Shapotou scenic spot in Zhongwei City, northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where Tengger Desert and the Yellow River, China’s second-longest river, meet, with tourism revenue of about seven billion yuan last year, in which beach sports make up an important ratio, said Chang Weihai, deputy director Zhongwei bureau of tourism, culture and sports.
According to Chang, beach sports as a key to boosting and combining both sports and tourism have been a long-run strategy for the city government. “Days for sight-seeing activity only have gone, we must make a change. Beach sports items will attract and hold more tourists so as to help scenic spots with more tourism revenue,” Chang explained.
With the high wave of fitness-for-all, Zhongwei has hosted four national beach sports events every four years to create a showpiece and to meet the increasing sports demand of citizens. The 2020 Ningxia desert sports contest is a regional sports event to popularize and further localize the beach sports.
The contest consists of 12 sports items including beach football, beach volleyball, beach shuttlecock and some fun items like tug-of-war and climbing the sand dunes, which are quite interesting with a high degree of participation.
Zhang said that there were nine teams about 100 players altogether to compete for the championship against his team, “I really hope we can make it to the last minute. Fighting!”
Zhou Shuang, the chief referee of the beach football, said that the soft sand requires more stamina and frequent substitution of players, which, however, reduces the injuries instead when players fall. “More players are able to jump with a beautiful overhead scissors shot or a volley, and that’s what we hope to see,” said Zhou.
Next to the football pitch, two groups of volleyball players also showcased aggressiveness to take a lead in the volleyball court, raising gust of dust when they move. Liu Huan, the chief umpire of beach volleyball, also highly focused on the contest to ensure the result fairness.
Unlike beach football, standard beach volleyball is a sport of a team of two, without substitutions. To keep the contest fair, two teams must change court every seven minutes in the preliminary contest and every five minutes in the final because of the sunshine, wind and other weather elements, according to Liu.
“However, in order to attract more to this sport, we arrange four players a team with a woman in each. The more people take part in, the better beach volleyball is popularized, and that’s where the success of a sport lies in,” said Liu.
16-year-old Bai Pengshuo, a seeded player of Ningxia Beach Volleyball Youth Team who once won second prize in 2019 Youth Games for his team, also takes this chance as a practice. Bai, with a height of 198 cm, is responsible for block.
“I like beach volleyball more, and I can better control the ball. But it’s still uneasy for us in a contest, because you will lose without effort,” said Bai. “So I take skill trainings at least eight hours a day and stamina trainings three or four times a week.”
“Anyway, it rather feels good to take a relaxation here and I can fight a contest on a real beach, with so beautiful vast desert around me,” said Bai.