New College American Football League Begins in China

Hebei Nirvana Defeat Wuhan Nine Headed Birds 46-26 in Historic, First Ever American-Style College Game

– Beijing, China

With a snap of the football at 10:04am on Wednesday, October 15th, Xie Kuhn, quarterback of the Hebei Nirvana, handed the ball off to Nirvana running back, Yong Diao “The Tank” Lei for a three yard gain. That play is now the first official intercollegiate play from scrimmage in Chinese history and marks the beginning of the China American Football League (CAFL) University Championships.

With bright blue uniforms that complimented the Beijing sky, the Nirvana ran a dominant ground game as they carried the ball often—much like how the game of football was played early in the America’s professional game. Nirvana quarterback, Kuhn proved to be a smart and skilled player, despite never holding an American football until May 2013 at a CAFL-sponsored tryout camp.

In the fourth quarter, Kuhn deftly faked a dive play and instead handed off to his receiver, Zhao Yang, on a reverse. Yang circled around his left end and snuck between two Wuhan defenders into the end zone. With loudest cheers from the crowd yet, Yang scored the final touchdown and sealed the win for Hebei 46-26. The cheerleaders, who cheered for both sides, celebrated with a victory dance.

“You could see them setting up that play all day. It was really cool to see that,” said Ed Wang, former Virginia Tech standout, three-team NFL offensive tackle and current Vice President of League Development for the CAFL. “They are catching on to the strategy and to some of the chess-like moves that are part of this game.”

Held at the Chaoyang Sports Center Main Stadium in Beijing, the CAFL University Championships feature six teams of twenty-four athletes from Chinese universities. The six teams are the: Hebei Nirvana, Shandong Flames, Shenyang Tigers, Wuhan Nine Headed Birds, Xian North-West Wolves and Tianjin Pirates.

The tournament began on Wednesday, Oct. 15, and will cap-off with a championship game on Saturday, Oct. 18. Each team features twenty-four Chinese university athletes and one will be named Most-Valuable Player. Following the tournament, eligible athletes can enter the first-ever CAFL Draft expected to take occur in spring 2015.

China’s first-ever professional league will kick off in the fall of 2015.

CAFL Founder and Philadelphia Soul co-owner Marty Judge has worked to bring American-style football to China with former NFL MVP and current ESPN analyst, Ron Jaworski, and former NFL Super Bowl-winning coach, Dick Vermeil.

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John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.