The Australian Football League has launched an academy in Guangzhou, China.
The Guangzhou Sports University campus in the Guangzhou, Guangdong province, will host the academy which the AFL says is designed to introduce athletes to the game and “help identify and develop potential elite players who have the ability to transition into Australia and the AFL.”
in a statement, the AFL said a two-week pilot program commenced with 27 athletes aged between 17 and 22 who are from basketball, soccer and rugby backgrounds. The academy program will be conducted annually.
“We need to find ways to connect our game with the growing Chinese community in Australia,” said AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods. “We are looking at five to 10 years ahead. We need to have a long-term approach and we are in for the long haul.”
The academy has received an endorsement from the Guangdong Sports Bureau following key meetings with high level Chinese Government Officials.
“Having the support of the Chinese Provincial Government will open up opportunities for future Chinese athletes,” Woods said.
Former AFL player Darren Flanigan, who is currently based in Hong Kong, is managing the academy program, which is based on the AIS-AFL Academy. The program is tailored to give athletes an introduction to the game, the rules, skills and the physical requirements to work towards a career in the AFL. The program also includes English lessons and background in Australian culture.
Captain of the Chinese Australian football team that played in the 2011 International Cup, Zhang Hao, is assisting Darren and is poised to become the first full time Chinese AFL Development Officer.
The academy concluded with a two-day AFL Combine designed to set a starting benchmark for the first intake of Chinese academy players. Two players will be selected to attend the NAB AFL Draft Combine in Melbourne in the first week of October.
The Guangzhou Academy launch follows the announcement of the first purpose built AFL oval in Tianjin in October 2011 and an AFL exhibition match between the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne in Shanghai in October 2010.
The ’China AFL Academy’ is supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-China Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australia-China Council supporting the attendance of two players from the Academy at the 2012 NAB AFL Draft Combine.