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Hulunbuir herdsmen change pace with soccer game

2021-04-08 (chinadaily.com.cn)

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Soccer players from Xi'nihe Football Club took part in Chinese Football Association Member Association Champions League in 2018. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

A grassroots football match, mostly played by herdsmen, has been held annually for more than 30 years in Ewenki Autonomous Banner of Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The match, known as the Xi'nihe Cup, was first held in Xi'nihe town in 1986. Teams are assembled village by village, with a few returning students joining in.

The match contributed to the incorporation and registration of Xi'nihe Football Club in 2015, with players from different ethnic groups, including Mongolians and Ewenkis.

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Soccer players from League B of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in 2015. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

They all do their utmost to ensure that the game goes smoothly. Going door to door, girls pick up the players, who may have just finished milking the cows in the morning. Lacking a big pool of money, the players raise it on their own.

There are now 224 registered players in the club, including 35 adults and 189 youth. It has developed into one of the the most influential informal amateur football clubs in Hulunbuir.

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Football players from Xi'nihe Football Club took part in the championship game of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region's Super League in 2020. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]