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Former Philadelphia Eagle, Philadelphia Soul owner, and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski at an event discussing impact of sports, hosted by the Rothman Institute, Wednesday, May 22, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Arena Football League set to touch down in China
AFL » Indoor league’s global 50-yard plans begin with Asia.
First Published May 23 2013 01:03 pm • Last Updated May 29 2013 05:10 pm

Philadelphia • The AFL is set to go long — really long — and touch down in China.

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The Arena Football League is taking expansion to a global level with plans to export their 50-yard fields and high-scoring offenses to Asia.

Are you ready for some "Mei shi gan lan qiu!?"

That’s the loose translation of "football" in Chinese and Philadelphia Soul ownership, led by former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski, believed the time was right to give the world’s most populous country an untraditional taste of a very American game.

"It’s an untapped market," Jaworski said. "They get our (NFL) games. They get Arena games. The Chinese people love sports."

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In America, the AFL is a niche sport long in the shadow of the NFL that’s been around in some form for the last 26 years.

In China, the AFL could grow into the next big thing in a mostly barren sports landscape where fans are more engrossed in chess, cricket or table tennis than stick-and-ball sports. The next step comes next week when the AFL holds coach/referee camps at six sports universities around China: Beijing Sports University, Tianjin University of Sport, Hebei Institute of Physical Education, Wuhan Institute of Physical Education, Shandong Sport University, and Xi’an Physical Education University.

China is set to get a crash-course in Xs and Os in a league that should be up and running in about 18 months. Soul co-owner Martin Judge leaves Friday as part of a group that will include league commissioner Jerry Kurz to oversee the training camps that will be held May 27-31.

"If anyone watched the Olympics and watched the Chinese athletes, they realized how competitive they were and the quality of athletes that they have," Jaworski said. "They are picking up football already rather quickly."

The AFL website said the trainers will include five U.S.-based former Arena Football League players, including Darren Kenny, Darreck Branch, Cecil Doggette, Steve Videtech and longtime referee Jim Lapetine. Lou Tilley, president of Lou Tilley Media, will host interactive sessions and present a special 10-part video series — "Introduction to American Football: A Coach’s Guide" — along with some bilingual reinforcement materials.

Tilley narrates AFL China videos found on YouTube that offer the kind of breakdowns that wouldn’t be heard out of Jim Harbaugh or Tom Coughlin.

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