PHILADELPHIA – The AFL is set to go long – really long – and touch down in China.
The Arena Football League is taking expansion to a global level with plans to export their 50-yard fields and high-scoring offenses to Asia.
Are you ready for some “mei shi gan lan qiu!?”
That’s the loose translation of “football” in Chinese, and Philadelphia Soul ownership, led by former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski, believed the time was right to give the world’s most populous country an untraditional taste of a very American game.
“It’s an untapped market,” Jaworski said. “They get our (NFL) games. They get Arena games. The Chinese people love sports.”
The next step comes when the AFL holds coach/referee camps at six sports universities around China next week.
China is set to get a crash-course in X’s and O’s in a league that should be up and running in about 18 months.
Soul co-owner Martin Judge leaves today as part of a group that will include league commissioner Jerry Kurz to oversee the training camps that will be held May 27-31.
The league plans to play an exhibition game in October in Hawaii and then two more preseason games later that month in Beijing and Shanghai. The AFL expects a six-team league to debut in September or October 2014. The schedule length – 10 games was suggested – and franchise sites are to be determined.
The league will start as a mix of American and Chinese players. Judge said he hoped the league would be compromised of predominantly Chinese players by the time it’s expected to expand to 12 teams in 2016.
“China’s ready for football,” Judge said. “They want Arena football.”