Article by Luis Pinto

Nil-Nil is a column dedicated to football in China and around the world.

The Xi’an International Varsity League—or XIVAL for short—is a grassroots competitive football league here in Xi’an. As they describe in their promotional material, it is open to players of all nationalities who are permanently or temporarily residing in the city. Its purpose is to promote interaction between foreigners and Chinese locals through sport; not to make profit, but to promote talent and entertainment for foreigners studying and working in Xi’an. The inaugural season is about to enter the playoffs, and if you haven’t been to a game yet, you’re missing out.

The league structure will seem familiar to football fans, just on a much smaller scale. First, all participating teams must have their players registered to the league. Upon registry, the team must submit a fee of 1500RMB to participate. Each team must have a minimum of 15 players and maximum of 23 players. After submitting the registration fee, each team is issued a set of jerseys with their team colors and players names and numbers. Then the teams enter a round-robin tournament format.

FIFA rules and regulations are applied to the proceedings, with a couple notable exceptions. As safety is a serious area of concern, all sliding tackles are illegal and will be considered as a card foul. Three consecutive yellow cards will result in the player missing the next game. Any player that expresses intent to harm or fight on the pitch will be banned from the league. Foul language will not be tolerated on the pitch and results in a card foul.

Talking about rules and regulations and the workings of the league may not be the best way to get you excited about football, but you must understand that all of this informs how the league is in reality. The play style is passionate, but tempered with good sportsmanship above all. The high-energy matches are exciting and wildly entertaining, even on those days where there’s not much of a crowd.

Currently there are no sponsors for the league, and the he players have had to contribute towards the operating costs of the league, which has proved to be quite a challenge. The addition of willing sponsors to this promising exciting event would be greatly appreciated and would make livelihoods of the participating students easier and much happier, as well as better enable them to run the league in its best form! The league has faith that this will be a success and a growing tradition in the coming years.

If anyone is interested in playing or becoming a sponsor please contact the league organiser Mr. Kurainashe Johnson Mugwagwa at his email: