By Harry Allison
American football is coming to China.
Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski and coach Dick Vermeil are part of a group that is launching the China Arena Football League (CAFL) in October. The new league has the approval of the Chinese government.
“This will be China’s first ever professional league of American-style football, played by the best players in the world,” said David Niu, president of AFL Global, the founding corporation headquartered in Conshohocken.
Initial plans for the CAFL were released in 2014 with the intention to play in 2015, but government approval delayed the league’s launch.
According to a release, the rosters of the six teams will be comprised mostly of Chinese players who have been training for the arena game at select Chinese universities.
Jaworski, who led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 1980 and works for ESPN as an NFL analyst, heads Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul’s ownership group. Jaworski will have Soul coach Clint Dolezel lead the new Beijing Lions in the CAFL. The Eagles’ 1980 Super Bowl team was coached by Vermeil, who led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title in 1999 and later coached the Chiefs.
Also among the league’s executives are Marty Judge, who is among the ownership group of the Soul, and former NFL lineman Ed Wang, who will also serve as a studio analyst for the league’s broadcasts. Wang’s brother, David, who played at Virginia Tech and spent last summer with the St. Louis Rams, was the first pick of the CAFL draft on June 10.
The CAFL draft saw players selected from the United States, Italy, Germany and Spain, in addition to the Chinese players. Of the 60 drafted players not from China, 20 of them played for the Soul.