11/05/2017 5:13 PM AEST | Updated 11/05/2017 5:14 PM AEST

The AFL's Trip To China Just Keeps Getting Weirder

How much can a panda bear?


Where do you start with the weirdness that is the AFL's first ever match in China -- to be played between Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast Suns this Sunday?

Should we begin with the revelation that Gold Coast star Gary Ablett rode at the pointy end of the plane while his teammates travelled cattle class? The egalitarianism of sport, eh?

Perhaps we should mention the story on the AFL website which originally had the breathless headline "EXCLUSIVE: Suns Grounded as Flight Delayed". Seriously, a delayed plane was news. In our world, an ON TIME plane is news.

We might focus on Suns coach Rodney Eade, who despite knowing for ages that his team was off to a country noted for appalling air pollution, did the whole "I'm really worried about air pollution in Shanghai" thing this week. Because 'Straya.

Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Smog in China. Who'd a thunk it?

You could go back to the minor hissy fit earlier this year by Port Adelaide president David "Kochie" Koch, who was upset about the Suns' red-and-gold playing strip because it would appeal to the Chinese (on account of their national flag colours).

You might refer to a very helpful observation from a reporter currently in Shanghai which compares Shanghai's famous Bund waterfront strip to Adelaide's Rundle Mall or the Gold Coast's Cavill Ave. Ohhh, NOW we get what it's like.

But if you really want to capture the essence of the weirdness of the AFL's first official premiership match outside of Australia or New Zealand, you have to get a handle on the way AFL types are portraying this as some sort of interstellar conquest.

The sarcastic social media backlash has been going on for a while, but it peaked on Thursday afternoon in Shanghai, when Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak said the AFL was looking forward to being the first western professional sport to play for official points in China.

Ummm, no, said the football world with a massive collective eye-roll.

And the wider sporting world too.

Depending on what you've read in the last year or so, the AFL is either playing this match in China to strengthen business links (South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill is over there right now), or to reach out to the Australian Chinese community, or to spread the footy gospel worldwide -- or all of the above.

"We're going over there to make history," Gold Coast co-captain Steven May before leaving earlier this week, and to give him his dues, he said this after declaring he was unconcerned by air pollution and other issues.

We're just not quite certain -- and nor is the rest of Australia -- that this game is quite as historic as all that.