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Arena Football's 'war on the floor' making history

Updated: 2013-11-09 08:06
By Murray Greig ( China Daily)

History will unfold at the Capital Gymnasium in Beijing on Sunday afternoon when American football makes its long-anticipated debut in China.

But curious spectators whose only exposure to the game has been online snippets of the NFL won't see a three-hour snooze fest of intermittent offense punctuated by perplexing plays and confusing rules.

They'll instead witness a fast and furious all-out war on the floor, as the best and brightest of the US-based Arena Football League is showcased in the East vs West All-Star Game as a prelude to the AFL's launch of a six-team circuit in China next year.

"This moment has been two and a half years in the making ... It's been a long journey, but I am thrilled and honored to be the one who started and sponsored what we believe is the biggest thing to hit China's sporting scene in a very long time," said Martin Judge, owner of the AFL's Philadelphia Soul, who has sunk more than $10 million into making his dream a reality.

"We could not have hoped to come this far without the support and cooperation of the Chinese government and the tireless efforts of Wu Hua, my partner in Ganlan Media International, but all the hard work has been well worth it.

"The AFL is more than just a professional sports league; it's a cultural phenomenon that is going to excite and inspire a new generation of Chinese players and fans like nothing they've ever seen before."

Arena Football's 'war on the floor' making history

A media conference in Beijing on Thursday featured opposing coaches Clint Dolezel (East) and Kevin Guy (West), along with starting quarterbacks Nicholas Davila of the AFL champion Arizona Rattlers and Dan Raudabaugh from the Philadelphia Soul.

"We're very excited to be part of this history-making event, but once the game starts we'll all be back in a competitive mode very quickly," said Guy, who helmed the Rattlers to a 48-39 win over Philadelphia in the ArenaBowl championship game in August.

"Arena Football is non-stop action and it's very simple to follow, even for people who have never seen it before. The team on offense has the ball and wants to keep moving it forward to score. The team on defense wants to stop that from happening. What could be easier to understand?

"It's like a battle, and the quarterbacks are like generals. The transitions happen very quickly on the 50-yard field, so that naturally results in lots of scoring."

And unlike traditional American football, which often gets bogged down by passive play and extended delays on a 100-yard turf, the AFL version incorporates sideline walls and netting around key playing areas to keep the action compact and continuous.

"What really sells the game is speed, the athleticism of the players and the creativity of the action," said Dolezel. "It's simple - but it's also very tough and hard-hitting. It's the game we all grew up playing, the game we love.

"It's fun to play and fun to watch ... but don't think that just because this is an All-Star game the guys won't be going all-out. They're proud professionals and they want to win. It might start off nice and friendly, but once those competitive juices kick in, the tackling will be as hard and as tough as ever."

Davila and Raudabaugh - arguably the two most talented passers in the AFL - concurred with that assessment.

"I've been playing football since I was seven years old, and at every stage of my development I've cherished the relationships I made with teammates, coaches ... everyone who was involved with whatever team I was playing for," said Davila, the league's 2011 MVP, who fired six touchdown passes in this year's championship game.

"For me as a player, the AFL is the ultimate. It's unique, it's athletically challenging and it's great family-oriented entertainment for our fans. That's what we're bringing to China."

Raudabaugh, who's thrown an incredible 311 touchdown passes in his three-year AFL career, predicted the fast pace and non-stop offense will strike a chord with Chinese fans.

"The quarterback is a team leader, on and off the field. In a lot of ways, he's like another coach for the rest of the guys. There's a lot of pressure in that position, but that's what makes it fun. I think fans here will see that. I love keeping the offense moving and throwing touchdowns, that's why I became a quarterback.

"Besides that, girls always like the quarterbacks."

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