Aussie Rules makes its mark in China
The Australian Football League held one of its round 11 matches at Shanghai’s Jiangwan Stadium in Yangpu District yesterday, during which Port Adelaide beat St Kilda 139-69. The match attracted thousands of spectators, including some loyal Australian fans who followed their teams to China.
This was the third straight year the AFL has staged a regular-season game in Shanghai and it was the league’s only overseas match in the Northern Hemisphere. The league also revealed another three new contract has been agreed.
“It shows AFL’s confidence in the exploration of the Chinese market,” said David Koch, chairman of Port Adelaide Football Club, the oldest professional sporting club in South Australia, with 150 years of history.
“The NBA holds preseason games in China and the European clubs play friendlies in China during the summer break. Only AFL has brought a regular season game to China.
“I have witnessed a lot of changes in the past three years. The interest toward the game, particularly from the Chinese community, has become so much stronger.
The AFL also invited some Australian business people to the Shanghai game.
“This is more than just a game, but a reflection of who we are as a country, as Australian football is unique to us,” Koch said. “I have watched Peking Opera and ballet brought by the Chinese government to Australia, so I look forward to introducing our sport to Chinese people. It’s a way of exchanging culture and building a friendship with China.”
Koch revealed Australian football will be introduced to over 100 schools in China along with some of the AFL’s best coaches.
“Like all sports, one important way to promote it among youngsters is to first let the parents know about a sport and its spirit. It will be sweet to see parents take their children to watch our games,” Koch said.
The Aussie Rules game requires a ground about four times the size of a football pitch. In Shanghai, only the Jiangwan Stadium meets the standard.
“To solve the problem, the AFL plans to promote a new mini competition ‘AFL-X,’ which already exists in Australia, and might be introduced to China soon,” Koch said. “Each team will use 10 players instead of 18 for each match, which will be played on a regular football pitch. This will not change the rules much, but make the sport more accessible to the public.”