Peyton Manning boosts China's new football league

Updated: 2016-09-29 09:39


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Retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning helped promote American football in China on Wednesday, meeting young aspiring players ahead of the launch of the country's new league.

Manning, who retired after steering the Broncos to Super Bowl victory in February and also has won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, was visiting China ahead of the start of the inaugural China Arena Football League (CAFL) this weekend.

Coaching at a quarterback clinic in Beijing, Manning said there was great success potential for the CAFL. The league has six teams competing in its inaugural season.

"I think once people can learn the rules, learn of the strategies and game planning and mental and cerebral part of football — once they learn that and appreciate that, I think they would have more of an interest in the game," he said.

"I think there is a lot of potential for it, and getting more young people to play. It's a great way to start and help grow that interest."

The inaugural season of the CAFL starts on Saturday, National Day, in Beijing and culminates in "The China Bowl" final in Shanghai a month later.

The Guangzhou Power will play the Qingdao Clipper in an afternoon match, while the Dalian Dragon Kings will battle the Shenzhen Naja in a night session at the Beijing LeTv Sports Center, originally known as the MasterCard Center.

On Sunday, the Beijing Lions will host the Shanghai Skywalkers at the same venue.

Originally held only in China's sports universities, the league operate 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 China Bowl will be played in the first weekend of November at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center.

Businessman Martin Judge, the owner of the US Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul, 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 US league. The Chinese players underwent a total of 20 rounds of tests in Beijing, Shanghai and Philadelphia in order to qualify to play.

Wang Lei, a 23-year-old sprinter at 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 extensive 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.