Shao Ting of Sichuan makes a layup against Han Xu of Xinjiang during the 2020-2021 season WCBA's opening game between Xinjiang and Sichuan in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province, October 1, 2020. (Photo: VCG)
After a coronavirus-forced halt of 273 days, the Women's Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA) finally welcomed back its new season which kicked off this week in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019-2020 season was suspended on January and afterwards canceled altogether. It meant the 2020-2021 season's curtain raised on October 1 was the league's first game in nine months, which also met an extraordinary time clash with China's National Day as well as the Mid-Autumn Festival.
According to Yao Ming, president of the Chinese Basketball Association, the date coincidence was a special choice deliberately made for Chinese basketball players to live as examples to everyday Chinese people that basketball will make our lives better, especially during hardships like right now.
Yao Ming, president of the Chinese Basketball Association, watches the opening game of the WCBA's new season in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province, October 1, 2020. (Photo: VCG)
"At the moment, our country as well as everyone around us are expecting to unleash more energy and passion," said Yao Ming. "To choose this special occasion for the new season to begin, it is our gift to our country and how we practice the idea that basketball makes life better.
The first stage of the new season, expanding from October 1 to 31, will take place in a championship-style format in Chengdu. Even though the local authorities have organized small crowds to bring cheers live to players, strict safety measures still prioritize.
"We can feel that everything is fully prepared beforehand with an aim of offering us a safe environment to enjoy games," said Shao Ting, who transferred to Sichuan from Beijing during the off-season.
Han Xu, the Chinese national team's center who had to pull out of the 2020 Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) season where she played for New York Liberty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will return to her old WCBA's team Xinjiang.
Other national players like Sichuan's Shao Ting, Gao Song and Shanxi captain Wu Tongtong will have to shoulder more in their own teams as foreign players won't join for this season due to the coronavirus.
"Playing in clubs is different from training in the national team," said Wu Tongtong. "I will bring what I've learnt during my national team's training sessions, such as the meticulousness given to details, into my play at the WCBA."