Contributed by: Sean Finlayson
Whereas once the Asia region was seen by the international footy community as being a bunch of expats having a kick in the park, it is now gaining recognition as an area of real growth potential for the sport.
Editor: Thanks to regular reader Sean for this report on Asian footy in Australian media.
The contribution of Chinese people to the sport of Australian Football was recently profiled in a great article in the Age "You're a Champ China". This coincides with a major push for footy in Tianjin by the Melbourne Football Club with the help of public figures such as the club's number one ticket holder Melbourne's popular Lord Mayor John So, which as WFN recently reported is now becoming a reality. China now has a handful of teams competing in a local league.
The media have warmed to Japan's national team the Samurai, arguably giving the team the greatest exposure of all the sides in the International Cup. Massive publicity was generated in Australia, and even a little in Japan, when at legendary coach Kevin Sheedy's insistance Michito Sakaki and Tsuyoshi Kase trialled at the Essendon Football Club and went on to attempt to build careers in Australia. The Age even ran an optimistic article entitled "The Japanese expansion". The sport has been growing steadily in Japan since, with new leagues established.
And last year, a great story "Flying high in the Pancawati Cup" appeared in The Age about a New Zealander who has established a thriving junior league in Indonesia.
With a much lower profile, however, is news from the Indian subcontinent. In 2003, initial attempts by the now defunct IAFC to establish an Indian league through clinics facilitated by the Indian Amateur Australian Football Association (IAAFA) failed (Editor: as far as is known). Despite this, the West Australian Football League made press in 2005 with its intentions to promote footy in the Indian Ocean rim. Late last year, ABC Asia Pacific, now known as the "Australia Network", announced the expansion of its coverage into India and Pakistan, which includes a package of up to 5 games from the AFL premiership season every week. India and Pakistan have in the past received televised soccer, rugby union and even Australia's National Rugby League competition, but this is the first time Australian Football of any kind has been regularly televised in the country. Recognising that many are completely unfamiliar with the sport, the Australia Network website now features a great guide for first time viewers of Australian Football titled "Aussie Rules OK ?". Since this time, WFN reported a college tournament was established in Pakistan.
Footy in Vietnam is another story. WFN spoke to Phil Johns of Hanoi Swans following the success of the Melbourne based Vietnam side over Japan. Although the expat Hanoi Swans side have found it tough going to date promoting participation in the game amongst locals, the team did manage to secure the services of a local lecturer from the United Nations International School of Hanoi for a season who proved to be full of talent and potential, receiving a small amount of publicity in the expat community. The Swans were unaware until recently of Melbourne Vietnam, and have expressed interest in forging a relationship with the team to promote the game in the South East Asian nation. At least one member of the Vietnamese team has also been in support of footy in Vietnam.
With increased exposure, footy is showing definite signs of growth and enormous potential in Asia.
World Footy News