|Jiangsu's players celebrate after winning the women's league champion in Zhejiang province, March 18, 2017. (Photo / Xinhua)|
BEIJING - The Chinese volleyball league (CVL) ended an impressive 2016-2017 season as the league saw a new women's league champion in Jiangsu, and Shanghai won its third consecutive title in the men's version.
Led by three national team players Hui Ruoqi, Zhang Changning and Gong Xiangyu, the Jiangsu squad defeated Zhejiang 3-1 in the best of five finals and claimed its first triumph in team history. The Jiangsu team entered the finals of the league for four seasons, but never won a title until this year.
Also, the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai has become the capital city of men's volleyball. All last three titles in the Chinese men's volleyball league have been claimed by the team from the city. They also claimed the 13th league championship by edging Beijing 3-2 on Sunday night, proving the quality of men's volleyball in the city.
Shen Qiong, Shanghai men's team coach, said that the final against Beijing was the fiercest he had ever seen.
"I'm happy, the team is happy. This is the most grateful I have been at the finals in my life," said Shen, who was a member of the Chinese men's team from 2001-2013, "Beijing is also a strong team. I have never seen such hard game in my life, even when I was a player," he added.
Thanks to a series of changes, the CVL, which just wrapped up its 20th edition, saw an overall increase in spectator numbers compared to 2015-2016 season, with the finals seeing an especially significant increase. According to the Chinese Volleyball Association (CVA), there was an average of nearly 3,000 spectators per match. Other major achievements include the All-Star weekend, use of the Challenge System and LED display during all matches for the first time.
The CVL chose a new commercial partner in the IRENA Group before this season, and this is considered to be a long-awaited reform. Gao Chao, president of IRENA, said that they will work hard together with the CVA to push the CVL to become as prosperous as China's other two top flight leagues, the CBA and CFA.
"We are aiming to tap into the whole industrial chain the sport's ecological system, the venues and copyright event resources integration, mobile internet," Gao said, adding that innovation is the key.
One of the big decisions made was to restore the All-Star weekend. "We had the All-Star weekend several years ago, but it was stopped due to several reasons," said CVA vice president Li Quanqiang. "We decided to bring it back this season with our partner, to bring this volleyball festival back for the fans," Li added.
The All-Star weekend, which featured shows, forums, and a North vs. South All-Star game, attracted a sell-out crowd, filling the 4200-seat Baoan gymnasium in Shenzhen.
"The All-Star game showcased the best of club volleyball around China, the best players and the great enthusiasm for our sport. I would like to thank the players for putting on fantastic events for the fans. It is providing a chance for passionate fans to enjoy the best of volleyball," added Li.
According to Li, also director of the volleyball department of China's General Administration of Sport, there will be more changes in the following seasons.
"We will deepen reform and opening up, invigorate the market and stimulate a new impetus for growth," said Li. "China will expand the CVL by adding more qualified teams. With more professional players, the national team can have more choices," Li predicted.
"The Chinese women's team made history in Rio Olympics, and we hope that men's volleyball as well as beach volleyball teams can qualify for the 2020 Olympics Games. A strong domestic league will provide a powerful means to achieve that goal," Li concluded.