The Story of SIAFL: Shenzhen’s Top Football League For Foreigners

Football is an important part of many foreigners lives and that doesn’t change for them when they move to cities like Shenzhen. Luckily, for those who want to continue to enjoy their passion, there is the Shenzhen International Amateur Football League (known as SIAFL for short). 

With the new season starting on Monday April 8th, Shenzhen Party thought it was the perfect time to sit down with the league’s chairman, Johan Liden, to discuss the story of SIAFL.

Tigers take on Dragons back in SIAFL 2016

Shenzhen Party (SZP­): What is the history of SIAFL? How did it all start?

Johan Liden (JL): A group of smart Shenzhen based football enthusiasts decided to organize an expats league in 2012. The group was already involved in several teams and communities around Shenzhen and came together to create a serious league around a common set of rules.

Nick Thompson was the driving force and was chairman from the first season in 2013 all the way to 2017. Nick still contributes significantly to SIAFL as part of SIAFL’s executive committee with myself and Ryan Tang. From the guys that were involved already from the beginning, Tansel Oender is still a major contributor with Inter Shenzhen, Kim Lee of Lunatics, and Pedro Pinto as manager of Tigers F.C.

Devils, SIAFL 2018

SZP: What is your own personal history with the league? How did you first become involved as a player? How did your role grow from there?

JL: I came in contact with SIAFL sometime midseason 2015 when I had made friends with the guys in Tigers F.C. and started playing football with them. Then I met Nick Thompson, the SIAFL founder and chairman at that time, and we connected from day one. From there, I helped Nick out with the league in 2016 and 2017 as much as I could.

When Nick announced at the conclusion of the 2017 season that he would be busy in 2018 with work and travel and wanted to step down, the managers of the teams in SIAFL appointed myself and Ryan Tang, manager of Lions F.C., to take over the reins, so to speak. Ryan and I developed a plan for 2018 that was later confirmed at a team managers’ meeting and I took over as chairman before the 2018 season started.

Dragons, SIAFL 2018

SZP: Is there much diversity in the league in terms of ethnicity and nationality?

JL: Yes. Very much so. We have 10 teams now in SIAFL and more than 285 players played in the league at different times during the last season. Last year, players from 52 countries represented SIAFL teams. Football is truly global and SIAFL definitely proves that football can unite people from all over the world.

Los Turcos, SIAFL 2018

SZP: How would you describe the competitiveness of the league? What is the balance between players going to have a good time and teams looking to win?

JL: I am proud to say that SIAFL 2018 displayed an almost perfect mix of competitiveness and community features, and we are excited to see that continue in the new season.

And for sure, it gets heated sometimes, that comes with the level of competitiveness. The top teams in SIAFL are very, very good for amateur football level. There are a lot of football coaches in Shenzhen and most of them play for SIAFL teams. We have several ex-professional players in SIAFL as well as guys that just like to come down once a week to try to win a game with their friends. So, diversity is there too.

Last season, Shenzhen Tigers F.C. were the SIAFL 2018 Champions after winning their last game against East Side 5-1. When title rival Inter Shenzhen lost to a strong Dragons side by 2-5, the Tigers secured the title 3 points clear at the top of the table.

With the league season completed, we played two knockout competitions, the Cup and the Plate. The top teams played the Cup and the team’s placed on lower league positions played the Plate. This gave teams that didn’t get good enough results during the full season – and therefore are out of contention of winning the league – to still have the opportunity to win a trophy at the end of the season. In 2018, Inter Shenzhen ran out victorious against Tigers in the Cup, while East Side beat Dragons in the Plate.

Tigers, SIAFL 2018

SZP: Currently there are no Chinese teams in the league. Are there any plans for that change?

JL: We are looking into that. We had one Chinese team under consideration for joining SIAFL in 2018. In the end that didn’t happen. Let’s see in future. The possibility of expanding our community and league by building a bridge to the Chinese football community in Shenzhen is something that we are very keen on exploring.

Lions, SIAFL 2018

SZP: Does SIAFL arrange events on the social side of things too?

JL: We have an opening party and a closing party every season. Last year we hosted an additional, separate party to celebrate the completion of the league season and the league champion. The party started at the pitches during the games for the fans and continued after the games at our SIAFL head sponsor Xpats Bar & Grill at Central Walk in Futian.

Last year, the season-ending party was hosted on the night when we had the Cup and Plate finals. All of this is possible thanks to the tremendous support that SIAFL receives from Xpats Bar & Grill and the owner Phenix.

Wolves (wearing green) battle for victory in SIAFL 2018

SZP: What are the future plans for SIAFL?

JL: Major changes or additions to league format and rules are decided at team managers’ meetings between seasons. We have been discussing to have a first and second division to be able to offer even more focus on competitiveness for the top division and yet offer a second division with more focus on community and having a laugh.

The format and rules of SIAFL were very smartly stipulated from the beginning and have carefully been updated and amended for six years so they work well under the specific circumstances of running an expats amateur football league in the city of Shenzhen. In short, we want to improve and add features but will do so carefully.

Pests, SIAFL 2016

SZP: What do you think makes SIAFL such an important part of the expat community in Shenzhen?

JL: First, football is the best sport ever invented in human history. Football unites and is global. Second, the structure of SIAFL is very smartly designed.

Those two factors are a great foundation. But at the end of the day, the people in SIAFL must be my answer. There were some very special and awesome people that not only founded SIAFL in the right way, they also took care of SIAFL and constantly improved our league over the years. These special guys are still a huge part of SIAFL. And of course, fantastic people attract more fantastic people. The people in SIAFL are a crazy (the good type of crazy!) and an amazing group that I am very proud to be part of.

The Tigers celebrate winning SIAFL 2018

SZP: If someone wishes to join a team in the league, what is the best way to get in touch?

JL: is a good start. Register a profile there and you get access to contacting managers of the SIAFL teams.

Another way is just to come down to our games. We play most Mondays from April to December with a summer break in July and August. You find all info on our website. I also think that there is great chance to meet SIAFL people all around the city that can bring you to a football session. Any interested football fans out there can also send me a message so that I can help out pointing them in the right direction.

If I may, here at the end of this interview, I want to take the chance to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to our league head sponsor Xpats Bar & Grill and owner Phenix, and to Nick Thompson, Ryan Tang, Dmitry Antonov, and Cindy Liu for their fundamental support to SIAFL and of course to all the teams, managers, players, and fans. Together we all make it all happen.

Unlimited World Cup BBQ & Beer at the Wyndham Grand

The Wyndham Grand is a well-known international 5-star hotel. Open in Futian CBD, since January 2015, the Wyndham Grand never ceases to impress, and this summer is no exception. To celebrate the FIFA 2018 World Cup beginning on 14th June, the Wyndham Grand is hosting a summer barbeque buffet with free-flow craft beer for the bargain price of RMB188 per person.Wyndham GrandWorld Cup BBQ

Situated in the picturesque outdoor garden of Vintage Bar on the ground floor, the barbeque buffet offer will begin on 13th June and run until 15th July when the World Cup ends. Matches will be shown live on televisions in the only outdoor hotel garden in Shenzhen. What better way to enjoy the game than with unlimited glasses of ice-cold craft beer and a never-ending plate of tasty barbeque food?World Cup Combo at the Wyndham Grand

As well as free-flow craft beer or soft drinks, there is a delightful range of barbeque foods cooked fresh to order. Shrimp, squid, oyster and Japanese mackerel are the seafood delicacies you can sample, along with a variety of beef, lamb, chicken and pork barbeque dishes, all seasoned deliciously. If vegetables are more your style, try the barbeque corn-on-the-cob or roasted garlic eggplant. All of these dishes will be cooked as you order them to ensure the freshness of the food and that they are prepared to your requirements.

Before and between the matches there will be the opportunity to play games and win prizes. For every match you can predict who you think will win and each entry will have the chance to win a voucher for RMB500 that can be spent in any of the Wyndham Grand’s bars or restaurants. Whoever predicts the winner of the final will be in with a chance to win RMB3000 voucher plus free-flow beer at Vintage Bar until the end of 2018! A fantastic prize, by any standard. In addition, there will be smaller prizes on offer for customers who score a goal in the Wyndham Grand mini-goal.

Vintage Bar outdoor garden

Director of Food and Beverage from the Wyndham Grand, Shenzhen, Roy Huang has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 15 years and joined this hotel about 2 years ago. He shared with us his aim is to have the best outdoor bar in Futian CBD, and he understands that the key element is staff. To that end, all new staff have at least two whole day’s training in the first month before they are assigned to the appropriate position to provide quality service. All employees also have training once a month to ensure the highest standards are maintained. This process is obviously working as there has been an excellent retention of staff since opening.Roy Huang, DFB

The Vintage Bar and attached open-air garden is a stylish setting, suitable for any event. The Wyndham Grand is in an ideal location in central Futian, easy to get to by metro (Gangxia station) or by taxi. A warm welcome will greet you as you enter the foyer and on your left you will see the distinctive sign of Vintage Bar. A list of match dates and times will be on display in the entrance to the bar, so you can keep track of who is playing when. Due to the time difference between here and Russia, some of the matches will be on well past midnight; however, Vintage Bar – and the barbeque – will stay open until the last match finishes each night.World Cup BBQ

Whether you enjoy football (or soccer, as some people call it) or not, the Wyndham Grand World Cup Combo offer is one not to be missed. Bring your friends, play some games, win some prizes, and enjoy 5-star food and drink in an exclusive setting, all at the same time and for the great price of RMB188+10%+6% per person. . What more could you ask for?

For reservations or enquiries call 0755 82998888 ext.8550.

Address: 2009 Caitian Road, Futian CBD, Shenzhen.

Rugby vs American Football

They’re both called ‘olive ball’ here in China. But what are the differences between rugby and American football? 


Most people will point out that American football players are covered in armor whereas rugby players simply wear a mouthpiece. Both are full contact sports which require intense ball carrying and tackling but there are many differences that make each sport quite unique. 


First off, rugby is older and American football evolved from rugby’s core. So basics like tackling and scoring are similar. American football terms such as touchdown and field goal came directly from rugby in the 19th Century.


Here are the key differences:

Rugby is played by 15 per side. That’s 30 players on the pitch with only one referee. Players stay on the pitch the entire match playing offense and defense until they are taken out of the game. Once a player is substituted he cannot rejoin the match.



Football is 11 per side. Players are specialized and play only certain plays, can come in and out every play. 


Rugby players run forward and pass backwards to advance the ball. No blocking or running out of bounds is allowed.

Football players can run forward or pass over the defense to advance the ball. Blocking assists the runner and running out of bounds allows the offense to retain possession of the ball.



Rugby players can kick as an attack and retain possession.

Football players usually kick to surrender possession.

Rugby is nonstop with quick restarts.

Football is full of stoppages, timeouts, and long breaks for quarters and injuries.



英式橄榄球通常开赛后赛程紧凑,没有计时暂停,而美式则有很多暂停, 超时,或者四分之一赛时后和有受伤时都将暂停比赛计时。

Scoring by touching the ball down in the end zone in rugby is 5 points followed by a 2 point kick.

Scoring by crossing the goal line of the end zone in football is 6 points followed by a 1 point kick.



A rugby penalty kick is 3 points and a drop goal taken during the play is also 3 points. Any player can kick.

An American football field goal is 3 points and is taken by the kicking specialist who usually does nothing else but this.


Rugby tackles turn into rucks and play continues.

Football tackles end the play and everyone has a chance to reset before the next play.


Rugby offers the defense many chances to win back the ball. After every tackle a ruck is formed where both teams try to force each other backwards to win the ball. Scrums and lineouts restart the match when the a foul has been committed or the ball has gone out of bounds. These both also allow the defense a chance to win the ball back. 


Play is restarted in American football by snapping the ball to the quarterback. Referees reset the ball after each play.


Rugby players run around for 80 mins, tackle, kick, pass, and run. This means all sorts of body types are needed- tall skinny players, short round players, light quick players, etc. There is a position for everyone.

Football positions are specialized. A player who catches almost never will be asked to tackle. A passer will never have to kick, etc. There are positions that rarely have to run and most defenders never have to run with the ball, pass, catch, or kick.



Rugby games are 80 mins long with a short halftime and a running clock.

Football games are 60 mins long with breaks for each quarter. The clock stops for numerous reasons and each team can call time outs.



Overall, rugby is for all-around athletes where teamwork and on-field decision making win or lose games.

Football is more of a chess match between two coaches who call plays executed by specialized players good at their positions.



Come experience rugby in person here in Shenzhen. For more information please subscribe Shenzhen Dragons Rugby Club Wechat. 


Place Phone:

+86 13823544352


[Shenzhen, China – 24 November 2017] Mission Hills Group in China led the way at the 2017 Asian Golf Awards in Danang, Vietnam, collecting a host of awards including Best Golf Resort in Asia Pacific for Mission Hills Haikou, a title the facility has held since 2012. AsianGolf AwardsTP
Brothers Ken and Tenniel Chu – Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Mission Hills Group – were recognized for topping the Most Powerful People in Asian Golf list for the sixth successive year.  Tenniel Chu also received the inaugural Asia Pacific Leadership Award for his contributions to junior golf development.AsianGolfAwards2.jpgMission Hills Haikou – which with ten public golf courses is the world’s largest public golf facility – has been in the headlines again in 2017 following ground-breaking announcements with FC Barcelona and the NBA.  Strategic partnerships have been established between Mission Hills and two of sport’s most famous brands which will further establish the Haikou resort as a centre of excellence not just for golf but also football and basketball.

The 22-square-kilometer Mission Hills Haikou resort on the international tourism island of Hainan also received Best Clubhouse in Asia Pacific and Best Pro Shop in Asia Pacific while its flagship Blackstone Course was first runner-up in the categories of Best Championship Course in Asia Pacific and Best Course in China.

Ken and Tenniel Chu continue to dominate the category of Most Powerful People in Asian Golf, having topped the list since it was first published in 2012.  Tenniel Chu’s Leadership Award for junior golf development came in a year which has seen more than 25,000 junior golfers enter through the doors of its two properties: Mission Hills Shenzhen and Dongguan in southern China – which with 12 golf courses is the largest golf club in the world – and Mission Hills Haikou in Hainan.
About Mission Hills Group

Mission Hills Group, owner and operator of Mission Hills resorts in the heart of the Pearl River Delta and on the tropical island of Hainan, is synonymous with leisure, wellness, entertainment and luxury. 

Founded in 1992, Mission Hills is recognized as one of the world’s leading golf brands and a pioneer in China’s hospitality, sports and leisure industry.  The world-class integrated leisure and wellness resort destinations have hosted more than 100 international tournaments, dating back to the World Cup of Golf in 1995, the first international golf tournament in China.  Mission Hills has also been accredited by the Guinness World Records as the “World’s Largest Golf Club” and the “World’s Largest Mineral Springs and Spa Resort”. 

Mission Hills’ properties sprawl over 40km2. They include 22 championship courses designed by renowned players and architects from five continents, five-star resorts, award-winning spas and volcanic mineral springs, international convention centers, state-of-the-art golf academies, a 20-pitch football training base, Asia’s largest basketball school and Asia’s biggest tennis facility. Mission Hills is also the official training headquarters for China’s Tennis, Football and Golf Associations. 

The Group’s ‘golf and more’ leisure philosophy has catalyzed its tourism-related business expansion into a leisure hub for multi-generational families.  Mission Hills Centreville in Shenzhen and Haikou provides integrated shopping, recreational, business, education, entertainment, leisure and cultural experiences, including Bromsgrove School Mission Hills in Shenzhen in collaboration with the historic British boarding school.  Mission Hills has also extended its foray into the hospitality industry by partnering with world-renowned hotel brands such as Hard Rock, Renaissance and Ritz-Carlton.  These collaborations have seen the opening of Ritz-Carlton’s first golf resort hotel in China and China’s first Hard Rock Hotel in Shenzhen. 
Other significant projects include Movie Town in Haikou in partnership with China’s largest film production company, Huayi Brothers Media Corporation and award-winning director, Feng Xiaogang and China’s first Wet’n’Wild water park in collaboration with Australia’s leading entertainment group and largest theme park operator, Village Roadshow Limited.

Mission Hills has also announced ground-breaking partnerships with FC Barcelona and the NBA to bring the world’s most famous football club and the world’s largest professional basketball league to its Haikou resort, making Hainan island a leading hub for football and basketball development in China.

For more information and latest updates, visit us at or follow Mission Hills China on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.