‘The Belt and Road’ International Gateball Invitational Tournament 2018 (“Jinxi Cup”) at Kunshan (near Shanghai)
OK there’s no way of sugar coating it – we placed last out of 16 teams, but what a fantastic experience.
We started our adventure at Shanghai airport, where we were collected by our interpreter (Shirley) and met two lovely fellow competitors from Singapore (the eventual winners!). The drive to our hotel took about 2 hours and we arrived just in time for dinner with teams hailing from India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and other provinces of China as well as us Aussies of course.
The next day was the day of the competition, and after breakfast (we sat with the Indonesian team who were very friendly), we boarded our coach and were taken to the venue – a 4 court purpose-built facility with artificial lawns. After the pre-game entertainment – drumming, singing and dancing (all of which were spectacular), some formalities and practice, the games started. This involved reporting to the administration tent, performing the toss and then lining up in number order, before marching onto the court to martial music – quite inspiring really, and I was proud to lead out the Woodville team for our first game.
We had been drawn against 3 Chinese teams and were resoundingly beaten by all of them. I think that the Shanghai team we faced were truly world class – they were almost balletic and although they pummelled us on court, I enjoyed watching them play immensely. They were accurate, ruthless and on a different plane from us both strategically and with ball placement, despite the lightning fast courts – a real eye opener (however, they did generously put one of our balls through gate 2).
It was interesting to note that these teams were very unforgiving of mistakes. We made one mistake early in each game – a missed easy touch on ball 2 in game 1, a sparking foul (wrong ball stepped on in game 2) and putting our own ball out in game 3 – and were never allowed the glimmer of an opportunity from these moments on.
By contrast the Chinese teams rarely made any mistakes, were accurate with touches and sparking, and all had a non-playing strategist captain, who without exception used a laser pointer. Once our balls were out, the Chinese balls hunted in packs and it didn’t really matter where we came on.
The format of the competition was, I thought, ingenious in that all teams had two “finals” games to determine the ultimate competition placings – the winners of each of the four blocks played in a “semi-final” and the winners played to determine 1st and second place, with the losers playing to determine 3rd and fourth. This was replicated for each place in the blocks, so the second placed teams in each block vied for 5th to 8th, and so on.
Our first “final” (to determine 13th to 16th) was against the Hong Kong team. We fared a bit better, but still made too many mistakes to win the game. It was the same story in our 15/16th play off against the Indonesian team.
The next day we were taken to the Jinxi old town for some sightseeing – very different from Shanghai. Overall the tournament was extremely well organised and had teams of a very high standard. Everyone we met made us feel welcome and we made lots of new friends. I would encourage anyone who wants to see/play against some high-level teams to have a go at this competition. Thanks to the tournament organisers and our hosts Jiangsu Gateball Sports Association.