- MEDIA CENTER
Jin Cancan, 12, is a total fan of soccer. [Photo provided by Jin Cancan]
As the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off at Al-Bayt Stadium in Qatar on Nov 20, Jin Cancan, a 12-year-old pupil – from Guizhou's Danzhai county in Southwest China's Guizhou province – couldn't wait to show up at the final of the World Cup as a flag bearer.
This year, Jin was selected to join the "星星之火" (sparks of fire) project initiated by China's Wanda Group and FIFA, and he'll go abroad for the first time to attend the World Cup.
Back to 2016, Jin's dad Jin Runquan bought him the uniform of Chinese soccer player Wu Lei and together they watched the qualifying match for top 12 of the Asian area for the 2018 Russia World Cup on TV, which created an unshakable bond between Jin and the World Cup.
In 2018, his dad sent him to a local soccer club for professional training. According to Jin's coach Huang Yuancai, although Jin learns things slower than others, he was never discouraged or gave up. Instead, Jin exercises harder than anyone else.
"I might be the least talented one in the eyes of my father and my coach, but I'm the most insistent one who loves soccer the most," Jin declared. Among the more than 40 teenagers who started training at the same time with him, only a few are still playing soccer now.
Jin receives professional training at a local soccer club. [Photo provided by Jin Cancan]
The population of Danzhai is 179,000, with about 90 percent being from ethnic groups. In the past, most of the children there never walked out of the mountains, let alone spoke of going abroad.
Since Wanda Group started to offer poverty alleviation assistance to Danzhai in 2014, it has provided various opportunities with its rich sports resources to help Danzhai's children see the outside world.
At the opening match of the 2018 Russia World Cup, six children from Danzhai debuted as flag bearers, becoming the first Chinese teenagers to hold the post at the World Cup.
In recent years, Danzhai has integrated sports with education for the 25,000 primary and middle school students. Chengguan No 1 Primary School, where Jin studies, offers soccer training. It also organizes various campus soccer leagues and club activities for enthusiasts like Jin.
Jin has only attended soccer matches in cities some two hours away from Danzhai. He hopes to attend higher-level matches in the future and hopefully represent his country one day.