Sports: China gung-ho about American football

(From The Diplomat)

On Saturday, China’s first professional American football league held tryouts in Shanghai to draft players for its inaugural season. Some 80 hopefuls turned up, showing off their 40-yard dashes, shuttles, and three-point drills at the rainy Luwan Stadium.

American football in China has been growing fast.

American football in China has been growing fast.

Billy Lai, an offensive lineman from Hong Kong, dreams of being drafted, and made the trip up for the weekend. He had celebrated his 25th birthday two days prior, but the gym instructor didn’t take any chances – no alcohol, and only a light dinner – before traveling to Shanghai for the trial.

Never mind that, unlike his American counterparts, Lai didn’t start playing until he finished high school. Forget that his amateur team, the Warhawks, only trains three hours a week, or that he largely learns through online videos. Lai thinks he has what it takes to become a pro.

“Sometimes it’s all about the attitude. It’s like, how bad do you want it?” he said. The inauguration of the China Arena Football League (CAFL), conceived by American investors, comes on the back of the NFL’s March announcement that it hopes to play its first regular-season game in the country in 2018. Alongside entrepreneurs in everything from soccer to mixed martial arts, these executives hope they can tap into one of the world’s most fertile grounds for commercial sports.

China is not recognized for its American football prowess, and inquiries about “olive ball,” as the game is known in Chinese, will likely be met with puzzled glances. Read More

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