Having a ball

Updated: Dec 23, 2022 By Zhao Ruixue China Daily Print
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Handmade cuju balls, created using techniques such as weaving and embroidery with wool and silk yarn.[Photo provided to China Daily]

While the recently concluded World Cup was in full swing in Qatar, the people of a particular city in China were busy making soccer history of their own.

Zibo, a city in Shandong province, was named in 2004 by soccer's governing body, FIFA, as the "home of soccer", based on the fact that the ancient Chinese sport of cuju was acknowledged by FIFA as the earliest form of soccer.

"Many people buy cuju sets to play for fun, or use as a gift to give to friends," says Yu Jian, an inheritor of cuju equipment manufacturing in Linzi district of Zibo city.

Sales during the World Cup are usually at least twice that of normal, he reveals.

Cuju was an ancient Chinese game involving the kicking of a ball. Its origin has been traced back to the Linzi district, which was the capital city of the ancient Qi state, a state that existed for more than 800 years during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).

The word cu means to kick, while ju refers to an ancient type of leather ball stuffed with feathers or grain chaff.

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