History Made: Us Football Debuts in China
Saturday October 1, 2016
Beijing,China – October 1, 2016
On the first day of a national holiday, the founders of the “little company that could” had to be thrilled. More than 11,500 Chinese fans came to watch US-style football on their day off. On a Saturday, with Beijing’s normally clogged roadways running open and smoothly, a Chinese fan base just beginning to understand the US sport came to the LeSport Beijing arena to see the debut of the CAFL, the China Arena Football League.
“Five years ago, people laughed at me when I said I would bring American football to China” said Marty Judge, the bombastic US businessman who acted on his dream. “Take a look around you. Here we are, on the home floor of the Beijing Ducks, and the China Olympics, and they came to see us – the CAFL, how about that!”
By all accounts they left entertained. The historic first game of China’s first pro football league saw the Qingdao Clipper hold off a last minute charge by the Guangzhou Power to eek out a thrilling 38-35 win. Chinese fans on hand, and and untold national TV audiences watched live on TV in both China and the US,, thanks to the CAFL’s production of the games. The CAFL Football Network delivered a novel split language feed to both nations. Those viewers saw a one-time unthinkable sight – Chinese athletes competing in US-style football with some of America’s best arena professionals. Among the Chinese history making firsts: the very the first kick, by a Chinese native, resulted in a tackle of a US player, by that same Chinese kicker, Chinese kicker Chao Ran Li of the Qingdao victors, would later shower, pull on a sport coat and help broadcast the day’s second match-up on TV. The first touchdown by a Chinese player was scored by wide receiver Tian Chu Zhang of Qingdao, who would finish with 4 catches in the win. And in the second game, a 47-19 rout of Dalian by Shenzhen, the first China quarterback saw action and Tao Yu ran it in for a touchdown.
“The story of this day was the surprisingly fast transition and effective play of the Chinese players,” said a man who should know, internationally famous football commentator Ron Jaworski, who is a proud part of the CAFL ownership group. All of us – owners, staff, US players and coaches are very, very happy for the success of the Chinese players in their debut.”
Shenzhen Naja quarterback Dak Britt accounted for 5 touchdowns in the win, running first coach year JW Kenton’s shotgun “pistol” formation, a drastic departure from the US brand of arena offense seen in the US.
Sunday, the first weekend of the 6-city Super Series tour concludes in Beijing, when the home town Lions take on their new arch-rivals from Shanghai. Kickoff is set for 3:00 pm Beijing time. The game can be viewed live on iQIYI TV in China, and on ONE WORLD sports in the USA. The Super Series then move on to Dalian with a triple header of games slated for Sunday, October 9.
With the official announcement of approval from the China government, the new professional league will be called CAFL (China Arena Football League), and the Beijing based operating company, formerly known as Ganlan Media International, will carry the same name.
“We think this acronym says it all,” said David Niu, the President of AFL Global, the founding corporation based in Conshohocken, PA, USA. “The league, and all of our efforts, are unique to China. We want to highlight the fact that we are playing American-style football, not to be confused with soccer. And we want to emphasize that this is China’s first ever professional league, played by the best players in the world.”
Many of the rosters will feature Chinese players, who have been learning and training for the arena game specifically for over a year, at 6 select Chinese Universities, under the guidance of AFL Global.
CAFL headquarters are located in Beijing, with leadership comprised of senior media executives and sports professionals with an array of government and commercial experience.