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Football on a mountain top

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Zhoucong Feng, a student from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), recently built a football pitch for disadvantaged children in Guobuga village, Guizhou Province, China. Located on a mountain top, the pitch is over 2,000 meters above the sea level and thus the highest in all Guizhou.

Guobuga is a rural village in southwestern China, 2,000 kilometers from UNNC and relatively underdeveloped. Over seventy-percent of children living there are so called Left-behind Children, whose parents have moved to urban cities to seek work, leaving their kids to be taken care of by relatives.

Guobuga is a mountainous village with a sparse population. The only suitable place that Feng and his teammates could find for the pitch was a patch of level ground on top of a mountain. To reach the top, Feng had to climb a narrow path for nearly two hours along the steep face of cliff.

Feng said the idea of building a football pitch for the Guobuga children came from watching a TV programme in which Jianjiang Ma, a local child, told of his wish to play football although he had never seen a pitch with his own eyes. Being one of the many left-behind children in the village, Ma’s story is not unusual.

“Speaking of rural education support, most college students choose to teach classroom lessons. With just several days available, I wanted to give them more than a week’s lecturing could possibly do,” said Feng. “If I teach them to play football, they may become stronger both physically and spiritually. I think that is something more profound.”

To help young Ma realise his dreams, Feng posted an article online hoping to gain support. Within a week, many people had responded by providing football equipment and a fund of over 5,000 RMB. He also received hundreds of applications from anonymous volunteers and accepted 17 helpers to be on his team. The “Passing Hope” project was thus created.

After completing the pitch, Feng and his team taught football classes for three hours every day. “The kids loved it. When they learned the basic skills, they just wanted to practice regardless of bad weather,” Feng said.

Feng hopes that with the companionship of football, Guobuga’s children won’t feel isolated as they grow up and will focus positively on their futures.

Thanks to the example set by “Passing Hope”, Life Cycle is now seeking to sponsor the project and extend its model to other areas of need.

With funding and support from the University, “Passing Hope” has since completed two more football pitches in Yuanqu, an underdeveloped area in Shanxi Province. The aim is to build twenty pitches nationwide by summer 2018.

However, football will not be the only sport to benefit. “Passing Hope” also aims to provide funding and teaching support for table-tennis and other sports in the future.

As a university-sponsored student project featuring sports tuition for rural youth, “Passing Hope” is the first of its kind in China.

Many domestic universities – including Tongji – and non-profit organisations have offered partnerships, as have the University of Nottingham UK and Malaysia campuses.

It is envisaged that “Passing Hope” could harness a global network aimed at improving equity in education.

Posted on 26 January 2018