There has been much hype surrounding the historic and monumental first ever AFL game to be played for Premiership Points within Asia, between Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast Suns in Shanghai, China on Sunday May 14th 2017.
However, the anticipation and excitement within Asian Footy circles about the Team China versus the AFL Asia Lions game is being held in a similar regard, as the game will for the first time showcase the best Asian-born footballing talent on the big stage at Jiangwan Stadium, directly after the Port Adelaide Power and Gold Coast Suns game.
The emergence and development of football on mainland China goes back more than a decade, with former China Captain and spiritual leader Zhang Hao hailing from the first generation of Chinese footballers who discovered the sport of Aussie Rules through the Beijing Bombers local player development program in 2007.
A decade later, with great support from the AFL and Port Adelaide FC, Zhang is now Guangzhou Scorpions President, has grown the AFL Academy into a 5-team 95% local Guangdong AFL league and has inspired a whole new generation of young Chinese to play footy. The success of the Port-Scorpions program providing a huge boost for the development of footy in China and a great example for how other AFL clubs could partner with teams across Asia to grow the game abroad.
Zhang was looking forward to the opportunity when he spoke to AFL Asia media recently, saying “I think it will be very good to have the game before IC17 on such a high standard ground. We always play on small grounds and less players on the field, it is a great opportunity to let the players know the feeling playing in the big oval. We also hope to use the game to choose our IC17 squad.”
It is expected that Team China will go into the ‘Asian All-Star’ blockbuster as early favourites and beaming with confidence on their home turf in front of a big home crowd, looking to make a statement and take some momentum into their fourth AFL International Cup (IC17) campaign, which will be held in Melbourne, in August.
The big question for followers of Asian footy is will Port Adelaide’s China recruit Chen Shaoliang be making his return to the China team in Shanghai. The former Guangzhou Scorpion and China Red representative’s much publicized move to Adelaide got off to a horror start last year when he damaged his ACL after being tackled in just his second training session with Port. Chen has yet to play a game in 2017 with either the Magpies or Port Academy, raising questions about his fitness for China representative duties. While Chen’s many friends and fans will be in Shanghai and keen to see him back on the field, there will be little doubt Port Adelaide officials will be cautious about his return to national duties after such a serious injury and extended spell away from the game.
With or without Chen, Team China will be stacked with young local talent, the majority from their successful Guangzhou Sports University program. Keep an eye out for determined Captain Chen Shu Kai, super-fit and committed Deng Xiao Yu, possession accumulator and gun midfielder Qiu Xiao Shan and highly efficient forward Zheng Jian Xing.
The AFL Asia Lions team will be no push over, comprising of the best local players from the Indonesia Garudas, Japan Samurais, Vietnam Swans, Cambodia Eagles and Lao Elephants. One may envisage that having players from multiple countries may hinder the AFL Asia Lions chances against the locals, however, they’ll be primed to make an immediate impact from the outset and will be looking to play a fast-running and impact on the scoreboard style of footy.
With local development programs now firmly entrenched in these five countries, the AFL Asia Lions team has plenty of players carrying a wealth of experience at IC and AFL Asia Championships level that will hold them in good stead when the pressure is applied by Team China. Keep an eye out for the hard at the ball Indonesian players, led by Boy Pasaribu, Captain of the Garudas 2016 All-Asian Cup victory, explosive Japanese midfielder Michito Sakaki, strong-bodied Vietnamese half forward with a keen eye for goal Vinh Quang Nyugen, the fearless wiley veterans from Lao and the Cambodian “mosquito fleet” led by the silky smooth diminutive Khmer midfielder Nas Nan.
Regardless of the result, this will game will speak volumes of the natural playing talent pool that is being nurtured and developed within AFL Asia. Just as the Port Adelaide Power vs. Gold Coast Suns game is a momentous occasion for all those associated within Asian Footy, one thing that can’t be dismissed is that this is an opportunity of a lifetime for the best Asian-born footballers.
All local players will also feature prominently for a number of different teams at the 14-team AFL Asia Shanghai Cup, to be competed at Wellington College International Shanghai this Saturday 13 May.
Header photo: Exciting winger Nas Nan, Cambodian Eagles 2016 Best and Fairest and leader of their ‘Mosquito Fleet”.
Team China vs AFL Asia Lions – Jiangwan Stadium, Sunday 14 May, 3.40pm (local time)
Coach: Daniel Sulzberger
- Qiu xiao Shan
- Chen Shu Kai – Captain
- Huang Jian Long
- Chen Jiang Tian
- Chen Zi Wei
- Zheng Jian Xing
- Qiu Jian Xiang
- Chen Zi Bang
- Xie Wei Yan
Deng Xiao Yu
- Lin Wen Liang
- Wang Rong Feng
- Wu Ze Jia
- Ma Nan Mao
- Nie Sen Hua
- Zhuang Huan Gang
- Lin Dian Yu
- Wu Xing Zhen
- Chen Zhu Shen
- Liu Sheng
AFL Asia Lions
Co-Coaches: Barry Anderson & Brett Qualtrough
Manager: Matt Gale
- Kyo Nakagawa – Japan Saumurai
- Michael Latuperissa – Indonesia Garudas
- Boy Pasaribu – Indonesia Garudas
- Antoni Yakobus – Indonesia Garudas
- Timbul Kukah Santoso – Indonesia Garudas
- Mahendra Gilang Suputra – Indonesia Garudas
- Randi Budianto – Indonesia Garudas
- Yosuke Kuno – Japan Samurai
- Yudai Yamaji – Japan Samurai
Shota Horiguchi – Japan Samurai
- Michito Sakaki – Japan Samurai
- Vinh Quang Nguyen – Vietnam Seans
- Anh Dinh Nguyen – Vietnam Swans
- Yuji Yamamoto – Japan Samurai
- Doan Hai Dang – Vietnam Swans
- Nas Nan – Cambodia Eagles
- Oun Nhom Kuy – Cambodia Eagles
- Kun Kuy – Cambodia Eagles
- Sak Sisombath – Lao Elephants
- Vilaylack Omphanmany – Lao Elephants
- Thonglien Thammovong – Lao Elephants
- Bounthanorm Keokhosy – Lao Elephants
- Handa Yattivong – Lao Elephants