Basketball helps city rocked by controversy to clean up its image

Updated: 2014-08-28 07:00

By Qiu Quanlin in Dongguan, Guangdong(China Daily)

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Randy Chang is not only a company manager in Dongguan, a manufacturing and trade hub in Guangdong province, but also an enthusiastic basketball fan, who organized a team that won a number of trophies in recent years.

"Participating in basketball has nothing to do with my business. I like living in Dongguan, where the sport has already won the hearts of residents," Chang said.

Like Chang, a businessman from Taiwan who invested in a furniture company in Chashan in 2001, a growing number of investors in Dongguan have organized company teams to participate in various amateur basketball games.

But there is also professional basketball.

Dongguan, which developed from a fishing village into a modern manufacturing behemoth, has been regarded as one of the major factories of the world over the past three decades. After a crackdown on the sex trade dragged Dongguan into the spotlight in February, Internet users launched an online campaign to tout the city's glories in other industries.

One of the achievements promoted in the campaign is a winning basketball team.

The Guangdong Southern Tigers, China's powerhouse that was launched in 1993 in Dongguan, won the Chinese Basketball Association championship eight times over the past decade.

The Internet campaign called for a big dose of local pride. The club has developed several key players for the national team, including Du Feng, Zhu Fangyu, Wang Shipeng and former NBA star Yi Jianlian.

In addition to the Tigers, the city developed three more professional teams in the 2000s, with two of them moving to Hunan and Shannxi provinces because of the CBA's regulation restricting the number of professional clubs in a single city.

"The reason behind the basketball glory is that people working and living in the city love and participate in the sport," Chang said.

According to Peng Qiyao, director of the Dongguan sports bureau, the city organizes more than 1,000 basketball games at various levels each year in its townships and villages.

"People from all walks of life, including residents, migrant workers, businesspeople and civil servants, take part in the games," Peng said.

Since a team consisting of farmers from Changping township won its first national trophy in 1984, Dongguan has developed as a major basketball base in the country, Peng said.

To boost development of the sport, the local government awarded about 45 million yuan ($7.4 million) to support the local team and established eight basketball associations in its townships.

An NBA-authorized training center was created in the Dongguan Basketball School and put into operation in 2011.

"Both schools are cooperative projects with the two local professional clubs, which enroll more than 250 young players each year," Peng said.

A new basketball center, which was designed and built to NBA standards, will be used as the home court for the Guangdong Southern Tigers later this year.

"I grew up in surroundings where people loved to play basketball," said Zhang Guanhao, 29, a native of Dongguan.

Zhang, who did not receive any professional training, is regarded as the "local basketball king" because of his performance in amateur games at national and city levels.

(China Daily 08/28/2014 page5)