We just scored our first touchdown in Qingdao, as our wheels skidded onto Qingdao International Airport to signal the arrival of the China Arena Football League into its Round 3 home city. This coastal city in the eastern mountainous ShanDong province is iconic across China for its expansive beach combined with hilly outcrops circling the city. It is also a city under great development at the moment, and is rapidly expanding through the folds of the mountains seeded throughout it – quite a fitting setting for the league that is slowly trying to morph its way into the emerging Chinese sports culture psyche.
Our time in Dalian felt short, and simultaneously intense and relaxing – the calm, clean coastal landscape was the ideal setting to take some of the stresses away from a month of living in Beijing, but the workloads are increasing now as the media team starts to hit its stride in content production for both the English broadcast and the Mandarin show.
Using it to our advantage, we were able to bring out some of the city’s personality for our in-game features – with our preview bike race challenge taking centre. Each of the three weekend matchups was played out in a friendly race on rented 4-man Sully bikes to a small group of curious onlookers & our countless international game day audiences.
Beijing vs. Shenhen race:
Shanghai vs. Guangzhou race:
Dalian vs. Qingdao race:
I was also able to spend an afternoon with one of the hometown players, and former NFL and Europe league star, Talib Wise, in a piece that not only reflected his international experience but also his connection to his recent time spent playing in Russia:
Talib Wise video:
All of these elements grew out from our very comfortable base at the Hilton Hotel, seamlessly organised and orchestrated by the league’s travel partners, Maritz Travel. Long days of editing multiple features in a room are eased with the thought of unlimited food and outstanding views
Week 2 culminated in a triple-header of action from the DaMai sports arena, where the winless Guangzhou Power continued their woes with a 32-45 loss to Shanghai Skywalkers, while the still-undefeated Beijing Lions edged out the Shenzhen Naja with a last minute touchdown. Our previous hosts, Dalian Dragon Kings, are still looking for their first win as they lost 26-43 to our current hosts, the Qingdao Clipper.
As with last week, from the moment the cameras wrapped it was full speed ahead to get packed and shipped out. Just enough time for a bath, a beer, a brief sleep and a bus to the airport
Long days and short nights need a reward, and mine will be a quiet walk along the beach as I wait for the remainder of the media team to arrive. In the meantime, it is pleasant to recap on the unity that remains throughout this whole group – watching players compete fiercely and hit each other in front of a crowd of thousands, to then see them sharing dinner and a laugh right after is a good sign that the players here realise their common goal in football, and their own personal reasons for taking the leap to bring their passion across the world to the new frontier of the sport and possibly of their own futures.