Update: We have just been notified by the Kunming Tigers that the match has been moved from Kunming Stadium to Tuodong Stadium. The match will still start at 2:15pm. Spectators should go to the stadium's second floor and enter through gate 14.
Editor's note: On Saturday, March 3 Kunming will host its first post-World War II rugby match when the Chengdu Pandas take the field at Tuodong Stadium against the recently assembled Kunming Tigers. Kunming resident Matt Bowden has provided GoKunming readers with the following introduction to rugby in China. Go Tigers!
Telling someone in Kunming that you play "olive ball" (ganlanqiu, 橄榄球), as rugby is known in Chinese, tends to elicit confused reactions. Occasionally someone might display a flicker of recognition and then go on to say that they love the helmets, mistaking "American olive ball" for "English olive ball."
The sport now has a foothold in the city thanks to a group of enthusiastic players who have started Kunming Tigers Rugby Football Club. Other Chinese cities have long boasted their own clubs and regularly host other teams from around the country.
Rugby actually has a long history in some parts of China, not least in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Rugby was brought to China by British traders in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Following Liberation in 1949, rugby vanished from mainland China. The National Sports Council even banned rugby for a time, saying "the meeting of sullied bodies in physical contact cannot be approved."
Rugby was non-existent on the mainland until the 1990s when a number of local clubs were established at universities and in the People's Liberation Army. The Chinese rugby team is now a regular participant in the IRB Sevens World Series. The 2016 Olympics will include the sport for the first time.
Believing that a baptism by fire is the best way to put their new team on the China rugby map, the Kunming Tigers have taken the bold step of inviting the Chengdu Pandas to Kunming for a match this Saturday. Admission to the match is free.
This will be Kunming's first rugby match, and with players from eight different nations so far, the Tigers showcase the sport's ability to bring people together and also to contribute to the community.
So for those with an interest in watching or playing rugby, come down to Tuodong Stadium this Saturday at 2:15pm. The Tigers would appreciate any and all support in helping mark this historic occasion.
For those people who are more interested in rugby's social side, anyone is welcome to join the teams at O'Reilly's Irish Pub after the game. Regardless of the final result, both teams will be celebrating.
Chengdu Pandas image: Shenzhen Standard