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Two Chinese players eyeing World XVIII spots

  • Thursday, May 27 2010 @ 09:40 pm ACST
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Earlier this month World Footy News announced expanded squads for the South Pacific Nations and World XVIII clubs, to participate for the first time in this year’s NAB AFL Under 16 Championships.

The AFL left open at least 4 spots in World XVIII side, and news out of China suggests that one more of those players may have been found.

Chenghao Zhong, an eighteen-year-old from Jiangsu Province, was thought to be the only possible representative from the world’s most populous nation. But AFL China's Development Manager, Andrew Sawitsch has revealed the 188cm tall, former basketball player will be accompanied to Australia by Shao Lei, a Shanghai-based former soccer player of the same age. Lei stands slightly shorter at 183cm.

This increased representation is reflective of the greater focus on China as a possible supporter base and talent pool for the AFL.

Andrew Cadzow, the AFL's Development Manager for Asia-Pacific, recently visited Shanghai. There he met with Mr Lu, the Director of Shanghai Sports University's Foreign Affairs Office. Cadzow represented the AFL in signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Shanghai Sport University (SSU), detailing plans to send two SSU students to Australia for one month, to further their Australian Football skills and knowledge and possibly represent their country at the NAB AFL Under 16 Championships.

These two students, Zhong and Lei, will arrive in Melbourne in June, where they will spend ten days at Monash University Sport Centre, training with the Monash Blues, before trying out for the World Team. According to Sawitsch, " While competition for spots in the World Team is strong, the boys, if not playing or training, will still be assisting the team as off field helpers and observers. We see this trip as an opportunity to further develop the students' football knowledge and leadership skills, so they can further grow the game in China on their return."

Their efforts back in China will be supported by AFL events such as the Kaspersky Cup, to be contested between Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions in Shanghai this October.

Victorian Premier John Brumby and Western Bulldogs player Jason Akermanis have both been in the news lately, supporting this expansion into China.

Following the signing of the MOU

Zhong and Brumby