Contributed by: Brett Northey
worldfootynews.com is conducting a series of interviews with Australian Football League staff as preparations get serious leading up to the August start of the third Australian Football International Cup. We've been speaking with Josh Vanderloo (AFL NAB Auskick Manager and an International Coordinator) and Roger Berryman (AFL Development Events Manager), who have just returned from a planning trip for the rounds in Warrnambool.
First on our agenda was to see whether the AFL is closer to knowing the final list of nations that will attend the tournament.
It has always been doubtful that all of the 18 countries previously listed by the AFL as possible attendees would ultimately make it to Australia. The AFL staff have confirmed that 14 countries have returned official team entry forms, with Spain, India, Nauru and Tonga yet to do so and thus in serious doubt.
Spain struggled for numbers in 2005, with players drawn mainly from the Madrid Bears. With the Catalonian region seemingly not keen to play as Spain and not invited to compete under their own banner, there was always a good chance of the whole country being unrepresented (we rated them as moderate chances back in December).
Nauru have financial and football struggles, as we reported in Nauru looking for support (we rated them as a low chance of attending), and Tonga (moderate) has always taken the approach of treading warily in terms of ensuring finances are in place before committing to projects.
India remains an elusive target for successive attempts to begin football there. Josh Vanderloo explained that the AFL continue to try to get Indian officials to Australia for training, but have once again been frustrated by a communication breakdown. The subcontinent is unlikely to be represented at the Cup, but the AFL have not given up all hope yet.
We're trying to follow up with all four countries to see if they have made a final decision. The Tongan Australian Football Association still hold out some promise, and a combined Nauru-Tonga islander team had been mooted, but the odds are now firmly against seeing any representation from either country. With their next development officer not arriving until March, time is against TAFA.
So at this stage the competition will probably feature 14 nations, along with several multicultural teams from Melbourne, with the final details of that yet to be decided. How the countries will be separated into different divisions is also a work in progress, obviously requiring the list of entries to be settled first.
2008 Australian Football International Cup - official entries:
Papua New Guinea
2008 Australian Football International Cup - possible but unlikely:
World Footy News