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Thursday, September 15, 2016, 14:55

China Arena Football League to kick off on National Day

By Xinhua
China Arena Football League to kick off on National Day
Players from the Arena Football League (AFL) All-Star teams take part in an AFL exhibition game in Beijing at the Beijing Capital Arena on Nov 2, 2013. (Provided to China Daily)

BEIJING - American arena football in China will go into full swing when the China Arena Football League (CAFL) kicks off during the National Day holiday.

Guangzhou Power is to take on the Qingdao Clipper in an afternoon match, while Dalian Dragon Kings will fight against Shenzhen Naja in a night session on Oct 1 at the Beijing LeTv Sports Center, originally known as the MasterCard Center.

The Beijing Lions will host the Shanghai Skywalkers on Oct 2 at the same venue.

Originally held only in China's sports universities, the league will be played in the landmark sporting centers of six Chinese cities this year.

The six teams will play weekend matches first in Beijing, followed by Shanghai, Dalian, Qingdao, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. The championship winner will be decided in a title game dubbed the "China Bowl" in the first weekend of November at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center.

The owner of AFL's Philadelphia Soul Martin Judge brought the game to China in 2012 and promoted arena football in six of China's sports universities. He had hoped to launch a six-team China Arena Football League in 2014, but he says circumstances forced him to wait until now.

"The Chinese association and I decided it would be best to allow the universities playing arena football for some time in order to have better Chinese players in the professional CAFL," Judge said.

Arena football has since developed rapidly in China. The CAFL has been approved by the China Rugby Football Association and is now listed on its annual competition agenda.

A total of 132 US and Chinese players are registered for the competition, 60 of whom are pros from the North American Arena Football League. The Chinese players underwent a total of 20 rounds of tests in Beijing, Shanghai and Philadelphia in order to qualify for play.

Wang Lei, a 23-year-old sprinter at the Wuhan Sports University, said that the lack of knowledge and experience about football are the biggest hurdles for Chinese players like him.

"We have so much to learn in a year or two, while our American peers have already learned it for more than 10 years," he said.

"But my explosive acceleration and speed are my advantages," added Wang, "I just love this game."

Judge said there are tremendous marketing and advertisement opportunities in the six host cities with professional squads, and adds that he is confident the league will be expanded to at least 22 cities over the next five years.

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