they can still feel our

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URUMQI, April 20 (Xinhua) -- As the ball hit the back of the net, for the first time in his life, Tursun Kurban jumped up from his seat in the stands, and
waved and cheered with the soccer fans around him.

Li Jing, who sat next to him, snapped the happy moment and sent the picture to a chat group with 60 members who had chipped-in to help the 70-year-old
realize his dream of watching a soccer game in a real stadium.

Tursun is from Atux City in the far western region of Xinjiang, one of China's most underdeveloped areas.

This poor city is rich in other ways; its long history of soccer being one.

As early as 1872, a rich family sent local boys to boarding schools in Turkey and Germany and they brought back football. In 1885, locals made their first
football using two leather hats, stitched together and stuffed with cotton.

Locals still take immense pride from their two victories in 1927 over the U.K. Kashgar Consulate and Swedish Missionaries. Random street games always draw
a crowd. If it happens to be a "big" game, motorcades from nearby villages
inundate the temporary pitch.

Compared with his childhood memories of playing football on a barren sand pitch with bare feet, Tursun's feet are comfortable inside a pair of new
sneakers, and he can go to one of many green pitches whenever he feels like
kicking a ball, or watch games being played on the other side of the world on a
smartphone with his grandson.

But the old man harbored one dream; to watch Xinjiang Tianshan Leopard, the autonomous region's first professional team. The ticket price was not a problem,
at just 30 yuan (less than five U.S. dollars) it was affordable. The biggest
obstacle was the distance -- Atux is 1,500 km away from the regional capital of

Tursun's wish was shared by a photographer on his WeChat account alongside the pictures of local kids playing football, and caught the attention of Li, a
sports reporter.

After a rough calculation of the travelling and hotel expenses, Li started crowdfunding, aiming to raise 5,000 yuan, to help the old man realize what Li
called "an unbelievably tiny dream."

The target was hit in just 15 days thanks to 60 donors, including Yerjet, a Xinjiang Kazak soccer player who is currently playing for Portuguese football
club, Gondomar.

"I saw people doing the right thing, and I felt inspired to follow suit," Yerjet said.

After landing in Urumqi, Tursun said to Li, "I have been helped by people I know countless times in life, but it is my first time to be helped by the
kindness of so many strangers."

"I have received a warm welcome and gracious hospitality from my Uygur fellows in Xinjiang for many years, and I wanted to fulfill your dream as a way
to repay them," Li said.

"I would like to invite dear donors to my home and taste the fruit I grow," Tursun said. "Even if they cannot make it to Atux, they can still feel our
hospitality all across Xinjiang." Enditem

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Posted 13 Mar 2019

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