The NFL has long strived to spread the sport of American Football, even playing a few games in London each year, but its proved difficult to teach the expensive and potentially dangerous sport to countries around the globe. However, there's word of football cropping up in a place you'd never expect it to, China. Yes, that's right! According to an American Football International article posted on November 3rd, a new organization called the American Football League of China (AFLC) has attempted to integrate the sport into the country's culture. Since its creation in 2013, the AFLC has grown from just a 4-game season to an incredible 12 teams in eight cities.
Although there's interest in China for football, the AFLC has hit many roadblocks along the way, but that hasn't stopped them yet. The majority of the athletes in the league are all 30+ years-old with families and regular jobs, so the threat of physicality and injury is a potential deterrent of the sport growing even larger. Additionally, since the AFLC is still in their growing stages, there is no platform for youth sports in the country yet; so the next generation cannot learn the sport or get recruited into the sport as easily.
Of course, the Chinese have raised the same issues with youth football that we've seen here in the United States in droves recently. Is my child safe? What about head injuries? Why would I let them play a physical, dangerous sport when they could focus on any other activity? However, since the sport isn't entrenched in the culture, finances, and business side of the country yet, this type of skepticism has a serious chance to kill the sport before it ever catches on.
While it seems like a lofty goal for now, CoachUp is rooting for the league to succeed so the wonderful sport can continue to grow worldwide. In fact, the AFLC has taken an even-keeled approach to their current goals and aspirations as their mission statement focuses on the safety and foundation above all else. Summarized, it says:
"The overall goal of the AFLC is to develop an infrastructure for football in China that will last. This translates into laying down the rules for play, establishing bodies such as the Health and Safety Committee, marketing the sport and building more of a presence for it, and teaching teams how to grow and run a football club."
Whether or not they can create a functional, long-lasting league is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure: they take their head safety very seriously. In the AFLC, when a player endures a head injury of any kind, they're put through rigid testing and must be OK'd by a doctor in every circumstance, no exceptions. While we applaud their efforts in this area, we can't help but be a little jealous of their impressive stance on head trauma and hope the US quickly follows in establishing a more reliable protocol.
Best of luck to the AFLC from CoachUp!
American Football International -- Tackling a sport that's tough to sell in China