In the nearly four years I’ve been in Shenzhen, I’ve seen a lot of changes. One of the big ones is the dramatic increase in the professional sporting landscape in Shenzhen. One thing that Shenzhen has over other cities is its sporting infrastructure. The reason for this is that in 2011 they hosted the Summer Universiade (World University Games), something that they are still proud of today. They use many pieces of the sporting infrastructure across the city on a regular basis for a variety of purposes.
This was a city that spent nearly AU$31 BILLION preparing for the Universiade. This was on EVERYTHING associated with the games, which included upgrades to the Metro (subway) system, facelifting buildings and streets, and building a 60,000 seat stadium. On top of that, the city installed the largest fleet of electric buses and taxies in the world.
When I arrived in Shenzhen in 2013, they were home to just one professional sports team in Shenzhen Ruby, who are a football team in China League One. They were and still are, overlooked completely by two much bigger teams to their north in the league above – Guangzhou R&F and Guangzhou Evergrande, the latter playing in the Asian Champions League on a regular basis. Shenzhen Ruby (now Shenzhen FC) play at Shenzhen Stadium, easily accessible by Metro on Line 7 by Bagualing and Huangmugang Stations. Since then, there has been a second football team, called Shenzhen Ledman, which has moved into China League Two from the amateurs, which plays in Bao’an Stadium (Line 1, Bao’an Stadium Station).
The International Champions Cup exhibition series has made three stops in Shenzhen, with 2017 seeing German champion Bayern Munich taking on Italian stars AC Milan. In previous years, Borussia Dortmund has lost to Manchester City on penalties, and a Milan derby took place the year before that. All three matches have taken place at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center Stadium – the nearest metro station is Universiade on Line 3, but it’s a bit of a walk from there to the stadium itself.
Many students get excited for the potential of an NBA star to come out and play in China, and the China Basketball Association did Shenzhen proud when one of the two Dongguan teams relocated to Shenzhen in 2015. The Shenzhen New Century Leopards have performed well, getting knocked out in the semi-finals this season at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center Arena. In addition to that, the NBA is not blind to the fanatical love that China has for them. In the last 4 years, the NBA has brought 2 of its preseason NBA Global Games to China, playing one in Shanghai and the other in Shenzhen. Shenzhen has been selected as one of the host cities for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, so I am sure there are going to be a lot of students concentrating on those games instead of their studies.
What may surprise some people is that the Army regularly hosts teams in professional sports across China. What particularly surprised me and others is that those army teams are not located in one city, but spread across the country. That was a big surprise when a few teachers went and watched the Shenzhen women’s volleyball team, and we discovered that it was Bayi Keming Surface Industry, and that all the members of the team were members of the People’s Liberation Army. They play out of Shenzhen University Yuanping Gymnasium and even had cheerleaders (which I found a little odd), but the excessive playing of “Daddy” by Psy was probably the more disturbing thing for me. The closest metro station is Shenzhen University a bus or taxi might be easier for those that know their way around.
Shenzhen also has 3 different tennis events on during the year, although they only actively promote 2 of them. The Shenzhen Open takes place out at Universiade – the WTA Tour event traditionally takes place at the start of the calendar year, ahead of the Australian Open, while the ATP 250 event traditionally takes place in late September to early October. There is also the Pingshan Open, which is usually played in mid-March to early April. It’s a low-level tournament, at the ATP Challenger Level and the ITF Women’s Circuit, so not much money is available for the winners, but it might be worth getting out there to see future stars. Take the high-speed train from Shenzhen North Station or Futian Station to Shenzhen Pingshan Station, and then look for a taxi or a bus.
Shenzhen is also known for its great weather, which means golf is a viable option. It hosts the Shenzhen International at the Genzon Club, which forms part of the European Tour (for reasons I don’t understand). It’s often well-advertised around Shenzhen, but its further northeast than Universiade. Take Line 3 out to Ailian or Jixiang and get a taxi from there. It would not surprise me if there are shuttle buses available for relevant days from more opportune points.
What really surprised me was the existence of an arena football team in Shenzhen. They are called Shenzhen Naja, and their mascot is a cobra. This team plays out at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center Arena, and it appears the season will resume in October 2017, so that could be something to keep an eye out for.
Having said all this, there’s also plenty of non-professional sport to get involved in. There’s a thriving 8-a-side football league, the enormous rugby union scene, an ultimate Frisbee team – SZ Ultimate – in Shenzhen certainly has its fans, the Shenzhen Celts – a Gaelic football team – that travels to tournaments twice a year, and there are always surfing options down in Dapeng. In a big city like Shenzhen, there are heaps and heaps of choices, even if you just go down at lunchtime to play pickup basketball with the students.