The New Orleans Advocate Feature – Rec & Leisure: Doctor works on the sidelines for Chinese football league
- Updated: December 11, 2016
BY ANDREW CANULETTE | Special to The Advocate DEC 7, 2016
Michael Feldman grew up in New England, so it’s no surprise that the Patriots are his favorite NFL team.
But Feldman also is a fan of the Beijing Lions, the Shanghai Skywalkers and the Guangzhou Power.
Not familiar with those squads? That’s OK — not many people are. But the goal, as the Chinese Arena Football League grows, is that an audience of 1.4 billion Chinese (and perhaps even fans outside of the world’s most populous country) will become fans of the nascent CAFL teams.
Dr. Michael Feldman is the orthopedic lead surgeon at Ochsner North Shore. He spent three weeks in China in late September and early October as one of several CAFL physicians, where, from the sidelines, he assisted players with broken bones, torn ligaments, pulled hamstrings and more.
Feldman was asked to join the first-year venture by a fellow physician and friend in New Jersey. He jumped at the opportunity to not only assist with a sport he follows passionately but also to travel to a country he never dreamed he’d get to see.
The CAFL is identical to its American counterpart, except, of course, that it’s played halfway around the world. There are eight starters per team in the six-team league, and by rule, at least half must be Chinese.
The country’s government several years ago created the equivalent of club teams at a number of universities to ready players for the venture. They were joined by free-agent American AFL players who served the dual purpose of ambassador and on-field competitor.
Teams played jamboree-style, with two games on a Saturday in an indoor arena and the marquee home game on Sunday. There were Chinese cheerleaders, and sideline reporters spoke both Mandarin and English so they could communicate with television audiences in both countries.
The average crowd, Feldman estimated, was just under 10,000 people, and a cross section of Chinese society was represented in the stands.
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 please contact the following:
Lou Tilley, VP CAFL Communications and Media