Contributed by: Brett Northey
Australian Rules Football has found it difficult to break into the Asian region. Although there are plenty of expatriate Aussies keen to spread the game, they have struggled to interest large numbers of locals, more so than in North America, Europe and Oceania. Japan and Indonesia are two possible exceptions. We look at their numbers, along with all the footy teams of Asia, in our latest in the World Footy Census 2004 series.
Most of the Asian clubs are composed mainly of expatriate Aussies, but getting data from some of them has been a little difficult, making final numbers hard to gauge. As most are single teams playing occasional tournaments such as the Asian Championships, a reasonable estimate of numbers for many of these clubs would be about 20 to 30 players qualifying under the 4 game rule (see previous Census stories), although most clubs have many more players listed on their books.
Firstly to Japan, where the game has been played for some years now. A following has emerged in several Universities, and with support from the originally expat Tokyo Goannas, the AFL Japan has grown, now including a Japan Osaka AFL. There are also first attempts in junior and women's development. Adding the numbers up has been difficult as many of the players from the Samurai club also play in the new Uni league, so to avoid double-counting only the Uni league numbers have been included, not the Samurai. Also, little in known about the Saitama Kumas and the Gekkos. The Russells are Japan's first junior side. The totals are 12 senior teams, 305 senior players and 15 juniors.
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The other area where junior development is encouraging is Indonesia. With the support of the Jakarta Bintangs, several enthusiasts have set up the Java AFL for local children in the Bogor and Desa Pancawati area. There are now four teams in the under 15s and under 12s. The other Indonesian club are the Bali Geckos, whose Bali 9s tournament is growing each year. So the country's totals are 2 senior teams, 40 adult players and 100 juniors.
The huge nation of China has seen several attempts to build Aussie Rules clubs. Information is scarce, but at various times in the last few years there appears to have been three clubs - the Shanghai Tigers, Beijing Bombers and Hong Kong Dragons. It seems that Shanghai also formed the basis for the China Blues at the 2004 Asian Champs. A reasonable estimate for China in 2004 would be 2 active adult teams, each with about 25 qualifying players, and 0 juniors.
Similar to China, Vietnam has two known attempts to form teams, the Hanoi Swans and the Saigon Saints. At a guess, 2 active senior teams, about 50 adults and 0 juniors.
Brunei is another country with a small footy scene, with possibly around 40 regular players splitting between two teams, known as the Sharks and the Mongrels. Like many Asian clubs, they face the problem of a high turnover of Aussies making it difficult to get the stability a new sport needs.
The Malaysian Warriors and Thailand Tigers are both single teams in their countries, and again we estimate about 25 adult players each, 0 juniors.
The Singapore Wombats are also a single team in their country, but their junior work appears to have gone a little further. We're still awaiting details, but suggest around 10 juniors, 25 adults.
Finally to the Philippines, where a small league was only recently founded. Playing under rules similar to the AFL's Recreational Football, the players split into two small metro style sides to play a non-contact form of the game. So about 30 adults, no reported juniors.
There is no doubt that Aussie Rules has yet to penetrate into Asia like it has in most other regions of the world. Much of that is perhaps cultural, but gains have been made in some areas, so hopefully we will see an acceleration of growth in the next 10 years.
World Footy News