American Football Expanding In Hong Kong, Mainland China
Although there may not be any NFL games planned in China, "American football is taking off," according to Andrew Chin of SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. In the past 18 months, 10 teams have been formed, the first of their kind in the country. The players are amateurs and pay for their own equipment, but the teams "have created a scene reminiscent of the early days of the game in the U.S." In April, the Hong Kong American Football League was established with plans of organizing a flag football league. However, "competing agendas among teams led to HKAFL President Alex Berriman changing course." Berriman said, "Geared football wasn't expected to arrive for at least two to three years, but we thought starting the Hong Kong Cobras was the best way to bring all the football players together with a common ground." The Cobras' first practice was in December, "with many of the players using their HK$6,000 ($774) tax rebate" to purchase their gear. The team now has more than 80 players signed up. Berriman said, "We found that locals are really into the sport. They love to watch it and talk about their favorite players. New players are showing up all the time and a second team, the Hong Kong Warhawks, are starting to form." The Cobras' story "has been a common one this year." About a year ago, China's only two adult American football teams, the Beijing Guardians and Shanghai Nighthawks, played each other for the first time. Since then, they have been joined by eight others, including two teams from Guangzhou: the Guangzhou Southern Tigers and Guangzhou Goats, which "overwhelmingly compromise local players." The three teams based on southern China "are gearing up to play" at the NFL Experience event in Guangzhou on Sunday. While NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders "will be the star of the show, these events have served as important showcases for the local teams." NFL China Managing Dir Richard Young said, "We always want to have an exhibition game at these events and give teams a venue where they get to play" (SCMP, 11/25).