Get Your Kit On: Sporting Days Out in Tianjin

Get Your Kit On: Sporting Days Out in Tianjin
By Paul Bacon ,

Over the past decade, Tianjin has developed at pace to become one of China's most vibrant and prominent cities. This can easily be seen in the redevelopment of the city's old concession areas and the beautifying of the Haihe riverfront, as well as through the scores of high-rise office blocks flying up in the new CBD areas. However, one of the spheres in which the city has lagged behind is sports.

Tianjin was lucky enough to host part of the FIFA Women's Football World Cup and a few minor Olympic events but, in terms of local sport, the pickings have traditionally been slim. Until late last year, the local China Super League soccer team, Tianjin TEDA, had been perennial underachievers, and the city did not even have a representative in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Several Tianjin ren informed me that Tianjin University's women's volleyball team was top-notch, but somehow that did not quite get the pulse racing.

Thankfully, over the past couple of years, things have begun to change, giving local expats the chance to enjoy some top-level Chinese sport at close hand. At the start of the 2008/2009 season, the CBA expanded from 16 to 18 teams, with Tianjin Rongcheng taking one of the newly created places. This followed hot on the heels of Tianjin TEDA finishing in the top four of the Super League to secure a place in the AFC Asian Champion's League, giving them a chance to rub shoulders with some of the best teams in East Asia. Neither are as yet world-beaters, but they certainly provide scope for an interesting evening or afternoon out.

Basketball – Tianjin Rongcheng 天津荣成
In their first CBA season, Tianjin may have only managed 13 wins from 50 attempts, but they certainly attracted plenty of interest. The 9,000 seater Tianjin Gymnasium was rarely sold out, but it did attract passionate crowds of several thousand spectators, including many expats. Anyone interested in serious basketball may be disappointed at some of the skills on show as the team is made up of Chinese players who failed to find contracts at other clubs, and two former NBA players with less than 50 games in the big time between them. This means it can often have quite an amateurish feel. However, the crowd is pretty vocal. Inflatable noisemakers are circulated at every break in play and air horns are available at the entrance. All of which ensures there is plenty of noise and action off the court, to compensate for whatever does or does not happen on it.

The paucity of genuine sporting quality should, though, not detract anyone from making a trip to the game, particularly given how easy it is to do so. Tickets are available outside the arena in the days leading up to the game and are also for sale on the door. To make things even easier, they are also available at many post offices across the city – although you will need a decent level of Mandarin to communicate what you need – and at TianjinPiao on Weijin Lu. The gymnasium is also conveniently located on Binshui Dao, close to Magnetic Plaza and the Shanggu restaurant complex, making it easy to grab dinner before or after the game. Tickets are a reasonable 20/30 RMB for regular seats and 60 RMB for a front row view.

The CBA season starts in November and finishes in March. Games take place throughout the week, most commonly on weekday evenings around 8pm. Unfortunately, finding fixture information is not easy as neither the team's official website nor the CBA site have English pages. Last season, the easiest source of information was

Location: Tianjin Municipal Gymnasium (next to the Olympic Stadium), Binshui Dao, Nankai District
Cost: From 20 – 60 RMB
Season: November to March
Contact: 022 - 2337 7262
More Info: 

Soccer – Tianjin TEDA 天津泰达
Slightly more established than the basketball team, Tianjin TEDA have been milling around the top flight of Chinese football for the past decade. During that time they have consistently flattered to deceive, often starting each season well, before falling away to mid-table obscurity. In 2008 that all changed as the team held its nerve to secure 4th place and entry into the Asian Champion's League. This achievement certainly grabbed the headlines, as it brought with it games against representatives from Australia, Japan and Korea. Sadly, Tianjin made a pretty swift exit from the tournament, but just taking part boosted interest around the city, with the 37,000 capacity futuristic TEDA Stadium actually attracting enough people to at least half fill it – a previously unheard of occurrence.

Sadly, getting to a game is by no means as convenient as it is for the basketball. The stadium is situated in the Tianjin Economic Development Area around 50km away from the downtown area. Fans get there either by taking a taxi – which costs approximately 200-250 RMB return – or by using the BMT light rail, which costs 6 RMB and takes 45 minutes, but can become hideously crowded. (The stadium has its own stop.) Tickets range from 30 RMB to well over 200 RMB and can be bought on the day of the game at the stadium. However, the lines can stretch well over a kilometre and those who do not get there two or three hours before kick-off can often miss much of the game. Tickets can also be purchased at the club's old stadium close to Chongqing Dao in the 5 Roads area of the city.

The Super League season runs from March to October. Finding fixture information on TEDA is not straightforward, as the club's official website is in Chinese, but other sites, such as Soccerway, have comprehensive information in English.

Location: TEDA Stadium, Tianjin Economic Development Area
Cost: 30 – 250 RMB
Season: March – October
Contact: 022 - 6628 6624
More Info: Official Website,; Fixture information in English,

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