Shaanxi runs special high-speed trains for soccer fans

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Printed on the ticket of the K5488 train is an extra note: "Chang'an Athletics," a second-division soccer club's name, and "train for fans." It stands in sharp contrast to the nationally unified pattern of train tickets in China.

On Sunday, the Chinese north-western province of Shaanxi ran its first-ever special train for local soccer fans heading from its capital Xi'an to Weinan, where Chang'an hosted Heilongjiang FC in its China League debut.

"I was proud to be on that train. It's the first time that we have a train specialized for soccer fans," Ding Qizhou told Xinhua, waving his ticket.

The Xi'an resident was stunned by the atmosphere in the carriage when everybody, in Chang'an red, sang the song for fans, even though his team lost to Heilongjiang 1-0 that afternoon.

"It's a special experience. We were singing and cheering all the way. Everyone was happy and excited," he said.

Ding was one of over 1,000 passengers on K5488 and a record number of 26,370 fans packed in the Weinan Sports Centre, the home pitch for Chang'an.

Due to renovations in the old stadium, the only professional soccer club in the province had to move from Xi'an to Weinan for the 2019 season.

The fan trains will run for each home match of Chang'an till the end of the season. While it takes about 40 minutes on the K trains, G high-speed fan trains can slash the travelling time by half.

"Many of my colleagues are also soccer fans and we contacted the fans' organization for the initiative, with the support of our Corporation," said Li Cong, a conductor in the Xi'an railway station.

"The club's home ground moved to another city and we want to help the fans with convenient transportation," she added.

As pictures, videos and posts on internet showed, at Weinan station, the K5488 passengers were welcomed by the working staff in a line, a banner saying "Welcome! Old fellows from Xi'an" and shuttle buses waiting to take them to the stadium with a fare of only one RMB per person.

"I want to sincerely thank Xi'an and Weinan railway bureaus for their thoughtful services, which showed their love and support for our fans and club," said Ke Xingping, head of Shaanxi Soccer Fan Association.

Shaanxi is known in China as a soccer-crazy province and despite the fact that it has not boasted a first-division club for many years, the local people's passion for the sport remains intact.

On October 27th last season, Chang'an suffered a key lost 1-0 to Nantong at home in front of a crowd of 48,869 spectators, which cracked their own attendance record for the third-division league.

More and more Chinese fans have been attracted to the pitch as Chinese football is buoyed by an influx of funds and foreign stars and Shaanxi is not the first side to run fan trains in China.

On April 1st, 2017, a special train also ran for Zhengzhou fans travelling to support their top-division side Henan Jianye playing at Tianjin. 

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