Gulangyu Island, one of the origins of Chinese football

Updated: 20 Jun 2014
Share this news?...Click box   Bookmark and Share

The People's Stadium of Gulangyu
The Chinese football team is absent from the World Cup again this year, but this doesn’t hold back Chinese football enthusiasts’ craze about the game. According to FIFA, the competitive game cuju (蹴鞠) in China is the earliest known form of football, while modern football as we now know it originated in the United Kingdom. 
In Fujian, the history of the sport can be traced back to February 1898 when an English missionary set up a school - Ying Wa School - on Gulangyu, which soon set up a football team called “Yinghua”. After that, football started rolling out its track across China from Gulangyu, making the island one of the popularizing elements of football in China. 
The People's Stadium on Gulangyu was built on 14th October, 1956. It was built on an old tennis court called Fan Zai Qiu Pu (番仔球埔). The Chinese Football Association has formally recognised the People’s Stadium of Gulangyu as the earliest documented official football pitch in modern China. 
In a book written by an American scholar, which included a report written by a teacher from Ying Wa School in the 1990s, one of the earliest documented records of Chinese playing football was found. The report said, “I couldn’t make a conclusion if these children were top cricketers or footballers, but I did believe they obtained endless joy by playing these sports, especially playing football.” 
In Ying Wa School, each class had their own football team, and the school’s teams were named the Tigers, Leopards, Lions and Elephants. The football teams received regular training each week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. 
However, the Yinghua Football Team members could practice their skills anywhere on Gulangyu except a place called Fan Zai Qiu Pu (番仔球埔), which was particularly used by foreign residents on Gulangyu Island before 1941. 

The People's Stadium on Gulangyu was built on 14th October, 1956. It was built on an old tennis court called Fan Zai Qiu Pu (番仔球埔).
Around the same period when the Ying Wa School was set up, the Americans forcedly occupied a place and cultivated it into a football pitch but would not allow Chinese people to play football there. 
According to literature and history expert Mr. He Bingzhong, an old alumnus of Xiamen No.2 Middle School, whose predecessor was Ying Wa School, has a photo of Chinese students standing with foreigners and the photo has a caption attached to it that said noted, “Ying Wa School students playing football in Fan Zai Qiu Pu for the first time in 1941”. According to his research, this match was made possible only because the foreign footballers couldn’t find enough players due to the invasion of the Japanese, who wanted to take full control of Gulangyu, forcing many people from other western countries to retreat from the island. 

Ying Wa School students played football in Fan Zai Qiu Pu for the first time in 1941
The football pitch was then turned into a baseball field during the Japanese occupation of Gulangyu.
The development of football on Gulangyu was accompanied with humiliation, but the foreign force did lay the root for this worldwide acclaimed sport in Xiamen and Fujian Province, and since 2007 it has served as the only training base for the national beach football team. 
Share this news?...Click box   Bookmark and Share
Comments Area ( Total Comments: 2 )
XMren Commented on 28 Aug 2014
In what rights were the foreigners living on Gulangyu segregating Chinese from themselves on the island ? Gulangyu didn't belong to a foreign country in the mid-20th century, right ? Or the situation was the same as in Shanghai ?
kingdongping Commented on 25 Jun 2014
Great article. Thanks to the reporter for the research. It's great to delve into the past.