Winter chills can't cool players' passion

2021-01-27 12:07:12

TAIYUAN, Shanxi province-As the first whistle sounds on a soccer match at the provincial fitness center in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, the pitch again becomes a familiar scene of hustle and bustle. With the temperature dropping to minus-10 degrees Celsius, it's best for the players to keep moving as much as possible. "It's colder than usual this winter, but people have never stopped coming to play," says Ren Bing, the game's organizer and referee. The participants are all members of a WeChat group that Ren formed three years ago, whose numbers have since swelled to 500. The action is interrupted when Ren suddenly blows for a foul. "Let's be careful!" Ren yells, and after checking on the felled player returns to the sideline, murmuring, "Safety first". As the match progresses, the action intensifies. COVID-19's impact on the world has made the players more appreciative of being able to participate in team sports, and they seem to be cherishing the moment. "Now that the epidemic has begun to recur in some places again, I'm afraid we won't have many chances to play like this in the near future," remarks one substitute player as he watches the game. For the past year, the coronavirus has raged across the world. Although the Chinese government has taken strict and effective measures to contain the virus, many people experienced neighborhood lockdowns, factory closures and the cancellation of sports fixtures. With the epidemic largely under control in China by the middle of last year, people gradually returned to their normal lives. However, with the onset of winter, coronavirus cases have begun to resurface in some areas in China, prompting the authorities to tighten health and safety measures and putting people back on alert. All of this, of course, was not lost on the players in Taiyuan, who appear to be cherishing every minute on the field. The teams are mostly comprised of adults, but among the many tall figures on the pitch, one skillful kid catches everyone's attention. Twelve-year-old Fan Gaozhen has had several years of professional training and now studies at the prestigious Shandong Luneng Taishan Soccer School. Fan's eyes light up when he talks about soccer. "My dream is to become a professional player, then join the national team," he says. The game continues even as the night grows darker and the temperature drops still lower. "Everyone wants to stay at home during this weather, but when you think of a group of friends who share the same interest, you might as well come over," says Li Xiangnan, a middle-aged player. The severe cold of this winter has kept many sports lovers at home, but not the true fans. The players all believe that despite epidemic prevention and control measures, people should come out and exercise as much as possible to strengthen their immunity. "For those worried about the cold weather and the safety of playing outside, I wish there could be more indoor exercise spaces, so that people's passion for exercise won't be curtailed by any weather," Ren says. "That's one way to fight against the virus." Xinhua