Team China is among the 18 nations which gathered for the Australian Rules Football League “International” Cup.
While the 22-man squad isn’t expected to sweep the tournament – it’s helping increase the sport’s commercial and cultural reach back home.
CGTN’s Greg Navarro has the story.
At a training session in Adelaide featuring Indigenous Australian and Chinese players, the coach’s instructions had to be translated. What didn’t need translating was the sport’s impact on players from both teams.
“We are both on a field where we both love sport and we are both loving Australian football so for me it is that human level that is really important here,” Port Adelaide Football Club General Manager for Chinese Engagement, Andrew Hunter said.
The visit by China’s national Australian rules football team, just days before an international competition, was a source of fascination. But the purpose of several events, including a football clinic with a group of school kids, was part of the Adelaide Football Club’s ambitious, ongoing strategy.
“Professional sport in Australia is highly contested so we are moving into a new market which is really important but also elevates the club,” Hunter said.
The interest here among a group of young men relatively new to the sport was positive.
“I think footy is very awesome. You get to run and handball, kick it, it is the gentleman’s game,” Team China member Lin Dianyu said.
Expanding the game in a country where it is relatively unknown is not easy. Many professional sports are trying to break into the lucrative Chinese market. But, Port Adelaide has taken a strategic approach. It’s included signing the first Chinese-born player to a professional contract.
Chen Shaoliang is serving as the sport’s ambassador and Team China’s captain. “I not only love football, I also want to share football with the Chinese,” Chen said.
In May, Port Adelaide played in a regular season AFL match in Shanghai.
“It was probably the most watched AFL game of football in the history of the game – it makes it real and people can see it,” Port Adelaide Football Club General Manager of Marketing, Matthew Richardson said.
The team’s strategy has also received some high profile support from both governments.
There is another potential benefit the Port Adelaide Football Club is hoping to come from all of this and that’s the experience that team China and its players have while in Australia.
Most of the Chinese players are studying to be physical education teachers. Team officials hope they’ll take a positive experience, filled with a new-found enthusiasm back home to help spread the word about this uniquely Australian sport.