China update - Melbourne FC Tour to China delayed until 2007
Sunday, August 20 2006 @ 06:18 pm ACST
Contributed by: Ash Nugent
Steve Harris, CEO of the AFL's Melbourne Demons, has announced that the club's planned tour of China, set for later this year had been cancelled. Hopefully this proves only a minor setback for the sport's development in China, with the club remaining committed to developing football in the third largest and most populous country in the world and still planning to play an exhibition match against the Geelong Cats in Tianjin during 2007.
In other news, Footy's ambassador to China Tom Mattessi was interviewed on Australia's SBS Radio. Mattessi was quizzed about the locals' grasp of the game and gave an insight into the inroads football has made in China.
The Mayor of Tianjin, Dai Xianglong was introduced to football whilst visiting Tianjin's sister-city Melboune in May. He was apparently intrigued by the physicality of the game and those involved saw it fitting that he take the game back to his homeland. Melbourne Lord Mayor and Demons' number one ticket holder, Cr. John So was also instrumental in proceedings with the Melbourne City Council supplying the footballs to China.
It was on Mayor Dai's return that things really started to get a move along. Since Mattessi's appointment, two clubs based around universities have been established. One has had eight training sessions, the other five and both have showed promise. On a recent tour to Beijing, to be introduced to expatriate-Australian side the Beijing Bombers, the local lads apparently showed lots of promise, both with the distance they could kick the ball and their quick coordination skills.
Mattessi also recently met up with ex-Melbourne Player and former Victorian sports minister Brian Dixon. Dixon is currently the Chairperson of AFL South Africa and after his success in growing South Africa's program, his counsel was sought as to whether Tianjin's pilot program could be replicated nation-wide. Whilst the outcome of the meeting is yet to be revealed, Mattessi has hinted at the importance of getting a league running in Tianjin firstly, and from this going national.
It is also hoped China will send a team to the 2008 International Cup.
In news from from the expat club scene in China, the Shanghai Tigers have pulled out of the Asian Championships, to be played in Jakarta, due to lack of player availability. They do however, still intend to be a part of the All-China Championships on the weekend of September 23 later this year.