Shandong Flames Win Inaugural China University Championships

Shandong Flames defeat Hebei Nirvana 46-42; China’s First-Ever College Football Tournament a Success in Lead-Up to Pro League

– Beijing, China

In the first official college football tournament in Chinese history, the Shandong Flames defeated the Hebei Nirvana 46-42 to win the China American Football League (CAFL) University Championships. The Flames, who trailed the Nirvana until the fourth quarter, led with a running attack and a strong defense to take home the first CAFL University Championships Trophy.

In the inaugural event, six college football teams—the Hebei Nirvana, Shandong Flames, Shenyang Tigers, Tianjin Pirates, Wuhan Nine Headed Birds and Xian North-West Wolves—played against one another in a round robin tournament. The four-day tournament was held in Beijing during China’s sports festival.

“In order to have a professional football league in China, we wanted to start at the college level,” said CAFL founder Marty Judge. “This successful tournament is a major step in that process.”

The tournament served as a platform to educate and develop a talent pool of young, college-aged athletes as well as showcase the promise of American-style football to Chinese spectators.

“The hard work, determination and ultimately the smiles on the athletes’ faces says it all,” remarked CAFL President David Niu. “A lot of these athletes will be competing in the CAFL professional league when we kick off in fall 2015.”

The tournament took place at Chaoyang Sports Center on Wednesday, Oct. 15, and ended with a championship game on Saturday, Oct. 18. Each team featured twenty-four Chinese university players. Following the tournament, eligible athletes can enter the first-ever CAFL Draft expected to take place in spring 2015. The first season of government-sanctioned professional football will begin in fall 2015.

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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.