Los Angeles Times Feature: American football is gaining traction in China
- Updated: October 4, 2016
By Jonathan Kaiman – October 4, 2016
Stadium lights glared through heavy Beijing smog, top-40 bass lines shook the stands, the smell of cheap hot dogs filled the air and the Dalian Dragon Kings strutted onto the field, shouting and clapping in their crisp blue uniforms.
A few hundred had gathered to watch the Dragon Kings take on the Shenzhen Naja, marking the second game in the first season of the China Arena Football League — China’s first professional football league, a scrappy, six-team operation run by a company based in Conshohocken, Pa.
As the game unfolded — snaps fumbled, kicks blocked and touchdowns scored — the children in the stands roared with delight, while their parents whispered quizzically about running backs, field goals and other unfamiliar lingo.
“In the past, I just liked watching the commotion, but now I’m starting to understand the rules,” said Zhang Xinjia, a 46-year-old security guard, his eyes trained on the ball. “No doubt American football will be successful in China — it’s such a confrontational sport.”
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