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g our sportin China is a fo
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by Xu Haijing

CANBERRA, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Australian football is the No.1sport in Australia given the record breaking expensive broadcastcontracts the national league, Australian Football League (AFL) hadsigned with major TV networks in Australia. Now, one of the AFLclub, Port Adelaide, is confident that Chinese audiences will liketheir sport.

According Andrew Hunter, the club's China and GovernmentRelations General Manager, Port Adelaide club has begun tocultivate the Chinese market for a few years.

It's called football, but Australian Football is not whatChinese people's understanding of football. To avoid confusion, thesport will be translated directly into Chinese as Australia styleoval ball.

"We know (Australian) football doesn't have a history in China.We don't think there is anything mysterious about our sport. It's afast, exciting sport. We believe it's a great sport for spectatorswith high scoring. There are extraordinary players playingAustralian Football. So there is no reason why it wouldn't bepopular in China," Hunter said.

The promotion of Australian Football began three years agothanks to Chen Shaoliang, dubbed the first Chinese playingAustralian Football.

Selected by AFL to experience the sport in Australia three yearsago, Chen, then a sports university student, began to practice whenhe was back to Guangzhou and then joined a local club.

"I mainly played with university students. They are young andopen-minded to novelty. They kind of like the experience of bodycontact in the game. They have more time and would like to trysomething new," Chen said.

Promotion among much younger kids also went smoothly. Chen wassurprised to find that some Chinese parents would like their kidsto have more body contact in the game despite AFL adapted rules forkids to reduce body contact and encourage speed and movement.

"As for Chinese education system, there is a growing awarenessthat they are looking for more active young people and activepopulation. We can offer football as an enjoyable sport, a fast andexciting sport. It can be another option for young people," saidHunter.

Hunter said his club regards three pillars as the key factors topromote Australian Football in China.

First is the broadcasting pillar. "We had a great opportunity towork with CCTV on that," Hunter said.

The Chinese Central Television has agreed to broadcast weeklyAFL matches involving Port Adelaide club and a documentary aboutthe Club as well as the life of Chen in Adelaide, who is now a PortAdelaide Club player.

"We also understand the social media is very different in Chinaso we had a social media company. We now have a WeChat and Weiboaccount so we'd give people the opportunity of to be able to accessto our club, our sport," Hunter said.

The third pillar is playing a match in China.

"This year announced by our Prime Minister (Malcolm Turnbull) onApril 14 in Shanghai there will be a match in Shanghai for thefirst time, a formal AFL game with Port Adelaide participating," hesaid.

"These three pillars put together will help us bringaudience."

Data showed that almost 4 million people in China watched theApril 23 match between Port Adelaide and the Geelong Cats throughCCTV broadcast, far exceeding the number of viewers withinAustralia of 850,000.

Port Adelaide is also ambitious to explore the opportunity inChina to promote their expertise in sports science.

"The sport industry in China is growing rapidly. We think thereis a growing potential. We have an expertise in sports science. Webelieve there is an opportunity to export that service toChina."

Hunter said there are many different goals in introducingAustralian Football to China.

"The first thing at basic level is we believe playing our sportin China is a form of cultural exchange. We believe with moreChinese people becoming aware of football, then we have a window toAustralian culture, they understand our culture better."

"Our engagement with China is growing awareness of China andChinese culture for Australians. I think it is a great vehicle forthat. I think it is a wonderful thing to grow that interculturalunderstanding," Hunter added. Enditem
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