China Daily Feature: Chinese football players take to their new sport like old pros
- Updated: October 4, 2016
By William Hennelly (China Daily USA) – October 4, 2016
Tao Yu took the snap in pistol formation and scampered left four yards into the end zone and into history. With that score, Tao became the first Chinese quarterback to play and also score a touchdown on the debut weekend of the China Arena Football League.
Tao’s TD came during his Shenzhen Naja club’s 47-19 throttling of the Dalian Dragon Kings on Saturday at the LeSports Center in Beijing before a National Day crowd of 11,500.
Other Chinese-player firsts included the first kickoff, by Chao Ran Li of the Qingdao Clipper, who ended up tackling an American player on the return.
Qingdao wide receiver Tian Chu Zhang scored the first CAFL touchdown by a Chinese player and finished with four catches on the day. The Qingdao Clipper held off a last-minute surge by the Guangzhou Power to preserve a 38-35 win.
In the Sunday game, the Beijing Lions bested their big-city rivals the Shanghai Skywalkers, 54-53, in a thriller in the league’s first overtime game.
“I thought the crowd was very excited and into the game,” Ken Bozarth, AFL Global VP of operations, told China Daily. “Two out of the three games came down to the final drive. It was actually difficult at times to distinguish the Americans from the Chinese. That’s telling us how much the Chinese have improved with the guidance of their coaches and American teammates.”
“The story of this day was the surprisingly fast transition and effective play of the Chinese players,” said ESPN NFL football commentator Ron “Jaws” Jaworski, a former quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and 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.”
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.
For more information, contact Lou Tilley at LTilley@Tilley.tvContact CAFL