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Expat Football in China: A Rough Guide

has assembled a compilation of information surrounding the international soccer communities among expats in Chinese cities. Compiled from online resources as well as personal and professional networks, hopes the information will be useful for developing soccer communities in local cities and the greater China community.

Expats in China: Fighting for chances to play

With the perfect Fall football weather coming in the next three months visitors and international residents in China begin to wonder where to find a decent game of football amidst the concrete jungles that are Chinese cities. Many will find next to senior citizens performing unimaginable feats in local parks and university stadiums there are occasionally a small group of lads involved in an activity that somehow resembles football. As you approach glancing stares of curiosity and suspicion come your way. You may not know it but the guys are all thinking, “This foreigner is going to either gain me some face, or lose me some face. Regardless, something is big is about to happen to our egos.” Of course this depends on if you play as a teammate or against him. If they are kind and welcome you to play, you quickly notice something. That is, if you’ve ever played in an organized team before you realize that most of your teammates and opponents have not. Therefore teammates continually pass you the ball like you are Maradona whilst opponents avoid you at all costs so you don’t make a fool of them. You score a goal, scratch your head, and think, ‘something is not right here.’

If this experience has happened to you, know that you are not alone. In response to this phenomenon has created a rough guide to organized soccer, marketed to the international and expat community, in a list of Chinese cities. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list so if you have more details please add comments below. Links to websites and contact information are most appreciated.

Overview: For a general view of all organized competitions, leagues, and tournaments of soccer in China and Asia go to, which operates out of Hong Kong. The site has information listed for the big four (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen) plus Chengdu. Although information is limited for all except Shanghai and Shenzhen. Breaking down city by city will get a better idea of how international expat football works in China.

Beijing is arguably the heart of Chinese football, home to CFA headquarters, Beijing Guoan, and a relatively longer history of foreigners playing in local leagues. Initiated by the international student population it has since expanded into several leagues and clubs and covers a wide breadth of professionals and internationals. The main outlets include:
International Friendship Football Club
China Club Football

Kunming FC kicking back after a 8-0 victory over local competition.

As the largest geographically size city in the world, CQ should boast a decent scene for football. However, the sole representatives holding the expat flag are Chongqing International Football club. The club competes regularly and organizes local tournaments. For more information see Chongqing International Football Club Website or contact Hans at

In the capital city of Sichuan province Chengdu’s lone international soccer representative is the Shamrock Wanderers FC who compete in a competitive local amateur league; often finishing in the top tier of the bracket. For more information see this interesting article from Chengdu City Life magazine.

Dalian and Liaoning province are traditional a hotbed for some of China’s most talented players. So it’s no surprise that Dalian Laowai FC boasts as competitors in the local amateur league. Matched against some talented Chinese youngsters you’d expect this team to be healthy and competitive. Contact Peric at for more details.

Laowai FC: A strong international team in a strong soccer town of Dalian

Guangzhou has seen the visit of many noteworthy European clubs in recent years. Therefore one would expect to encounter a formidable internationals league in the city. Indeed there is. Check out an article about Guangzhou’s Expat Football league or the Guangzhou Football league’s home site.

Hangzhou is not a traditional soccer powerhouse, but new happenings are starting to change that. Hangzhou Sinobal Football Club is looking to organizing several leagues and a unique China Nations Cup tournament this November. The tournament will see countries represented by its nationals compete in an “Expat-World Cup.”

Hong Kong
Under British rule HK has long since had an established Hong Kong FA and the most dynamic international soccer scene in China. Because of this you’d have to be fairly thick not to be able to find a league or team by just asking around and doing the research. For reference some of the leagues and teams can be found here.

Dubbed the city of eternal spring, you would hope that with the year round perfect weather there would be plenty of opportunities to play soccer. Indeed, the amateur soccer league has approximately 200 teams playing in three separate leagues year round. That being said the only organized expat club in town is Kunming Football Club. Contact William at for more details.

The up-and-comer Nanjing Football Club is taking the initiative to make Nanjing a formidable football community. With the NIFT tournament organized for this October, and continuing biannually every spring and fall. In addition the club organizes a league for internationals and locals to compete. Contact information is listed on the above website.

Similar to the football community in Hong Kong, Shanghai has a seasoned history of international football in town. You can expect competition to be relatively organized, competitive, and including internationals from across the globe. One google search will find you all you need. For reference the two most dominant leagues would be:
Shanghai International Football League More Competitive Sunday League.
Active Sports Active Social 7-a-side Social League

InterShenzhen: Competes locally, nationally, and internationally.

Shenzhen premier expat soccer outlet is InterShenzhen Football Club, a competitive team that competes in tournaments throughout China and Asia. However, claims have been made the local competition is ‘in need of development’. Contact Tansel at for followup information.

Suzhou proudly sports the Suzhou Blue Marlin Football League, a organized 7-a-side competition, with two tiers of playing level, including a relegation/promotion system. Teams from neighboring cities of Kunshan and Wuxi even make the journey on weekends. Season starts in December, ends in June (with holiday breaks). For more information visit the website or contact Taffy (


The Zhongshan Wanderers Expat Football team is a new find in 2012 and a sign that there is a  growing population of Chinese Expats actually organizing activities.  For more info email or call 8613702465267。

Once again, this is not a complete list and the information is limited to the online and professional networks of . Most importantly, if you have more information about the above leagues, additional league, or additional cities PLEASE ADD IN COMMENTS!

Trevor has always been a student of the game, thus becoming a teacher and ambassador for the sport was only natural. In 2010 he joined Sinobal Football Club in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, a grassroots football club founded in 1998. First starting as a player, then as a youth and first team assistant coach, now Trevor spends most of the time coordinating international projects with the club. These include school football co-op projects, China Grassroots Football Foundation in rural areas of China, Street Football, China Grassroots Football exhibition, and finding new opportunities/events to popularize, enhance, and project grassroots football in China. For WEF Trevor contributes primarily on happenings away from the CSL, where, arguably, Chinese football needs the most development. Although coverage on Hangzhou Greetown FC, a partner of Sinobal FC,is to be expected. If you are interested in contacting Trevor or finding out more about grassroots football in China contact



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