On the Pitch, You Are Never Alone

Wang Shuan:

I have never liked the word goodbye.

Whenever I hear it, painful memories appear. One of the worst took place on a train station in my hometown of Wuhan when I was 12 years old. It was a bitterly cold February night, and we were in the middle of the Chinese New Year, which is basically like an XXL version of Christmas. For one glorious week, you go home, you eat delicious food, you see your friends and family.

For me, that week is heaven. I never want it to end.

The holiday was particularly important to me that year because I was living away from home for the first time. I was attending a boarding school in Beijing run by the Chinese national team and Renmin University High School. It was so tough. The school was for the Chinese under-17 team, so I was several years younger than most of the players there. I was lonely. I was missing my parents so much that I’d often break down in tears.

So you can imagine how horrible it was for me when, having just come home for the holiday, I had to go back to the school after only three days. They didn’t give us more time off. Just when I needed my family the most, I had to board a sleeper train to Beijing — alone.