China Arena Football League Heats Up with Successful Combines in Shanghai and Beijing

The China Arena Football League – CAFL – is entering its second season of play in 2017 and seems to have hit a popularity nerve in China. Some say that the CAFL is bringing a new brand of cool to Chinese athletes.

And some also say that the CAFL could be developing the next Yao Ming (NBA legend) of American Football

Following back-to-back successful combines in Beijing and Shanghai, attracting over 400 potential football players this past weekend, the CAFL knows it has found a niche.

CAFL Vice President of Football Darrick Branch says he’s seeing more skilled guys this year:

“The good thing is most of these guys have come with players that played with us last year. They know someone who has played with us. They have a sense of what to expect. That’s important to us. It’s all about expanding their knowledge of the game. It’s about them getting more familiar.”

Athletes traveled from as far away as Xinjiang (2,000 miles), Wuhan (430 miles) and Jiangxi (380 miles) to compete in a series of drills and exercises to test their speed, strength, endurance and agility, eager for a chance to play in the Super Series II, China’s first professional football league that will travel across six cities across the Mainland in October.

Wuhan quarterback Cadillac Chen said he is grateful for the opportunity:

“I am very grateful to CAFL for bringing this opportunity to play football games to China. My friends and family are happy for me to become a professional athlete playing this fun new sport.”

The CAFL seems to have become a new brand of cool for Chinese athletics, attracting players from rugby, track and field and soccer to try tackling, blocking and kicking. Wearing the hottest gear from their favorite apparel brands, Nike, Under Armour and Jordan, men between the ages of 20-30 came out in droves for the tryouts.

Wide receiver and first time Combine participant Hamo Tsang says he’s excited to be part of something where he can enjoy exercising, play his favorite sport and make friends.”

Da Shang went to school in the US and has been playing for about 10 years.

“If I can make the team I’ll be really excited to share this fast growing sport with my peers and show everyone how fun it is to play. In China CAFL growing really fast and the level of skill is getting better.”

Follow the CAFL on their website. Also follow the league on Facebook and on Weibo @ CAFL橄榄球联赛 and on Wechat @CAFL_Official

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.