CAFL – Professional American Indoor Football in China

China Daily Feature: Chinese hopefuls flock to CAFL tryouts in Shanghai and Beijing ahead of draft

China Daily (Tuesday, May 16, 2017) By YANG XINWEI

Chinese hopefuls flock to CAFL tryouts in Shanghai and Beijing ahead of draft

The China Arena Football League is onto something. Following successful com­ bines in Shanghai and Beijing that attracted around 300 potential Chinese mainland players over the past two week­ ends, the CAFL has opened a pipeline for homegrown talent in American gridiron. “I’m seeing more skilled guys this year,” said Darrick Branch, the CAFL’s vice­presi­ dent of football operations. “The good thing is most of them arrived with players that played with us last year, so they had a sense of what to expect. That’s important to us. It’s all about expanding their knowl­ edge of the game and exposing them to what we’re doing.”

More familiar with soccer, rugby and track and field, pro­ spective CAFL players from as far away as Wuhan, Xinjiang and Jiangxi competed in a series of drills and exercises to evaluate their speed, strength, endurance and agility, eager for a chance to play in China’s first pro football league, which will be showcased in six main­ land cities in October.

US tryouts will be held in Texas on May 27, ahead of the CAFL draft on June 17. Determined to increase the CAFL’s profile in China and make the game attractive to both the domestic audience and potential Chinese business partners, CAFL founder Martin Judge, who is also part owner of the US ­based Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul, recently appointed Chinese­ American Ed Wang as the league’s president. Since joining the league’s executive team three years ago, Wang has played an integral role in building its operations and enhancing player development.

“Ed’s ability to lead, direct and drive the understanding of what the CAFL needs in order to expand professional American football throughout our organization and the Chinese market is unmatched,” said Judge. “We are very proud to have him as our president and to be a role model for all current and future players in our league.”

When Wang was starring in high ­school football in Virginia, he never envisioned the day he would oversee a professional version of the game in his parents’ homeland.

“When I was younger my goal was always to be the first Chinese player in the NFL,” said Wang, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2010 and went on to play parts of three seasons with the Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders. “As I got older and understood more about life and football, I knew I wanted to do more, and one way was to help expand and grow American football in China.” When asked about the single biggest obstacle for Chinese ­trained players who want to compete in the CAFL, Wang replied: “The biggest obstacle is just learning the game. Chinese players are more than capable of competing physically; they just need to expand their knowledge of the game and learn more about how it is played at the professional level.”

Wuhan quarterback Cadillac Chen said he’s “very grateful to the CAFL for the chance to play football in China”. “My friends and family are happy for me to become a professional athlete playing this fun new sport,” he added. For Guo Ruibin, a Beijing Sports University senior, training and learning are the key ingredients for his adjustment in becoming adept at American football. “I keep training to learn and learning in training,” said the 23­year ­old member of the Beijing Iron Brothers, the first American football club registered in Beijing. “Playing in the CAFL is a dream come true for those who love American football. I believe in the sport’s bright future in China. It brings us excitement and happiness.”

Da Shang, who went to school in the US and has been playing football for about 10 year, echoed that sentiment, saying: “If I can make the team I’ll be really excited to share this great sport with my peers and show everyone how fun it is to play. Arena football is growing really fast in China.”

Garry Morris, the CAFL’s chief executive officer, said it’s only a matter of time before American football becomes a mainstay on China’s sports landscape. “We have been extremely pleased with how quickly American football is growing in China, especially in the cities in which the CAFL plays,” said Morris.

“Our league is growing both in popularity and exposure, and we have a five­ year plan in place to expand to at least 18 Chinese cities. We are providing amazing futures for many athletes who work hard each day to become professionals in this great game.”

Robert Gordon, a 13­ year veteran of the Canadian Football League and new head coach of the CAFL’s expansion Shenyang Black Rhinos, said he’ll incorporate both NFL and CFL strategies in building his team.

“There are some definite similarities at the line of scrimmage. The CAFL and CFL both have a one ­yard neutral zone, which allows the quarterback more time to throw the football and make more plays down the field,” said Gordon. “The motion is a little faster in the CAFL than the CFL, which allows offensive wide receivers to run faster at the defense because they don’t have to wait for the quarterback to snap the ball, like in the CFL. I will be introducing different ways to hit the line of scrimmage running and how my defense deals with it. “I really want to make stars of the Chinese players in terms of scoring and running, and have our American players complement them on other routes and the plays we run. That being said, I really want to find good Chinese skill guys and tough linemen to build my team around. “I want to develop Chinese players to dominate in certain areas. It’s a work in progress to get the Chinese involved in more plays and feature them more often, but we have the first pick in the upcoming draft and will use it to sign a Chinese player. “That’s all I will say. I can’t give away all my secrets.”

 

About the China Arena Football League (CAFL):

As China’s only Professional American Football League, the CAFL plays its seasons each year during the months of September through October. The 2017 season will be comprised of its six teams, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Wuhan and Shenyang. Each professional team is comprised of a total of 22 players, 11 Chinese and 11 Foreigners, (mostly from America). The 2017 season, which is called the CAFL Super Series II, commences September 23/24 in Shanghai and will travel respectively to Qingdao on September 30/October 1, to Guangzhou (Foshun) on October 7/8, to Shenyang on October 14/15, to Wuhan on October 21/22 and then to Beijing for the Championships on October 28/29.

The CAFL enjoys a multi-year working formal partnership with China’s Sports Bureau’s China Rugby Football Association (CRFA), which has been a driving force behind the success of the CAFL.

For more information please contact:

Lou Tilley, VP CAFL Communications and Media
Contact: LTilley@Tilley.tv

Contact CAFL