If anyone still thought football would stay a tiny sport in China, a brief visit to the country by Peyton Manning may well prove them wrong.
This past fall, Manning completed a whirlwind NFL Legends tour of China which included a visit to the Great Wall of China. He spent the afternoon visiting the Great Stone Gridiron Landi Campus and in the evening he participated in a Fan Forum in front of a packed auditorium, held at Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium.
The GSG Landi complex is a two field indoor training facility, where Manning met with the Chinese finalists of a Gatorade contest, youth players from GSG Future League and members of Chinese university teams fielding questions from the overflowing audience.
He delivered a clinic on quarterback mechanics and instructed players from all three groups. Manning looked to be enjoying himself and the opportunity to coach young athletes from the various teams with names such as the Gorillas, Vipers and Sharks . He focused on fundamentals and the kids were very receptive and enthusiastic. Even though they were in China, they knew they were getting a chance to practice with one of the greatest quarterback of all time .
Michael Jin of Great Stone Gridiron commented on the event
“It was great to have two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback visiting our facility and coaching the kids . They were very excited about the chance to work with such a great player. Mr. Manning was also very impressed by our work and the potential that Chinese market offers.”
At the Beijing’s Fan Forum, Manning once again highlighted the importance of youth sports and physical activity. When asked why he chose football he replied:
“I grew up in a football home, I started playing in a back yard so for me it was natural to choose this sport later at school. It’s an ultimate team sport that teaches you life lessons.”
Do you have a brother or sister?
Although, China’s interest in football is growing at light speed it seems, knowledge of the game is still a little sketchy. One of the night’s most adorable moments came when Manning was asked by an audience member if he had any brothers or sisters …
He also reflected on his respect and rivalry with Tom Brady, support for the Pat Summit Foundation, and his passion for golf. The night concluded with a giveaway of autographed memorabilia and a group selfie.
All in all, Peyton Manning’s visit to China was no doubt a huge success for football and the NFL. Google searches of his name in China probably went through the roof. But now, with a new professional league – the China Arena Football League – kicking off this weekend, it would seem that the “Middle Kingdom” is poised to add millions of new followers to the game.