Chinese American Football League Set to Kick Off Next Year in China

( [email protected] ) Aug 15, 2014 07:13 PM EDT
Organizers are hoping American Football can help quell China's "insatiable sports appetite."
The Arena Football League played its all-star game in China in 2013, and over 10,000 people attended. AFL

China, are you ready for some football?  Well, you better be, because a version of America's favorite sport will hit an arena near you very soon, according to entrepreneur Marty Judge.  

According to the New York Times, the game Judge is bringing is not the same game we see played every weekend in the fall on High School fields, College Stadiums or giant NFL Complexes, but the kind played at indoor Arenas from New Orleans to San Jose.

"It's exciting," Judge told the New York Times, "and it's what the Chinese government wants."

Judge, along with NFL legend Ron Jaworski owns the Philadelphia Soul of the American Arena Football League, and they announced Wednesday that they brokered a deal with Chinese authorities to launch the China American Football League, and they have high hopes about the venture.  

According to Judge, the league will start in August 2015 with six to eight teams. He expects the league to swell to 30 teams in five years.

Judge's background in the A.F.L. and the abundance of arenas in China, are two of the key reasons the indoor variant of American Football was chosen over the classic version.  

Judge first came to China in 2008 on business and later started the Beijing-based Ganlan Media International,  so he is not unfamiliar with the way things are done in the country.  The project has been in the works for a few years now, with $10 million already invested, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Joined by legendary NFL coach Dick Vermeil, the group believes the game will be accepted in China because the Chinese prefer games and sports that can be played indoors.  Badminton and Ping Pong are big, and Jaworski says the Chinese have "an insatiable sports demand from a growing consumer base."

Last year, the Arena Football League held its all-star game in Beijing, and 10,000 people showed up, which proved to the investors there is a curiosity about the game in China. Also, the Super Bowl has been broadcast in China for four years, and the NFL has more than 30 flag-football teams in the country.

Each team will be made up of 20 players, eight of whom will initially be foreign, probably recruited from the American arena league, or from the college game. Players will be paid $3,000 to $5,000 per game.

The organizers have also spent two years training players at Chinese universities, giving them everything from coaching to equipment.

American Football is called "Olive Ball" in China, and accord to the WSJ, Some Chinese sports fans seemed open to the idea of the game coming to their country.  Sun Qisong, a 21-year-old student and NBA fan, says he has never watched American football before because it isn't easy to find online access to the game. He did say he would be open to checking it out, though.

"I hear that it's the most popular sport in America," he told the WSJ. "The athletes in the game are very strong and the game is always fierce and hot-blooded."

Zhang Wentao, 22, another student seemed less enthused.

"I don't know much about [football], but I know the NFL is one of the top sports leagues and Americans really love it," he said. "I might watch it out of curiosity but I don't think it would be popular in China. Different countries like different sports." 

Follow Don Pittman on Twitter @DonaldPittman.