Ghana and Azumah Nelson look to AFL and Bulldogs
Thursday, June 11 2009 @ 07:05 am ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
Earlier in the year Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun reported that the Western Bulldogs were in contact with Azumah Nelson regarding Australian football - see Bulldogs look to forge ties in Ghana. The Bulldogs are a good fit, with a lot of African immigrants in their region in western Melbourne (reportedly 15,000 - over half of which are Ghanaian), hence their appointment of multicultural development officers who work with recent arrivals.
One such employee is Sash Herceg, who was once involved with Australian football back in his original homeland, Croatia, which is indicative of the game's broad spectrum these days.
Azumah Nelson is a famous Ghanaian who held several world boxing titles in the 1980s and 90s and become very well known in Australia for a series of controversial fights with Australian world champion Jeff Fenech. Nelson has visited Australia in recent years using his profile to raise money for the Azumah Nelson Foundation which aims to give sporting opportunities to children in Ghana. The Foundation has been dealing with both the Western Bulldogs and the Australian Football League and recently publicised through their website that Australian football will become one of the official sports of the charity.
We report their release and chat to the AFL's Kevin Sheehan about their involvement.
The announcement stated that:
Azumah Nelson has proudly announced the addition of Australian Rules Football to the sports that will be available at the AZNEF Sports Academy in Akuse. Australian Rules Football is the largest sport in Australia with the major professional competition, the Australian Football League, comprising 16 Clubs spread throughout the country. It is a game of high speed with kicking, marking (catching the ball), handball and tackling being the major skills involved.
Azumah is very excited to bring this action packed sport to the people of Ghana. “Once we become familiar with handling the oval shaped ball, I am sure that Ghana will produce many champions for the AFL Clubs in Australia,” Azumah said, adding “I am very excited at the opportunities this new sport will present for my people.”
Azumah, through his Azumah Nelson Foundation, will be setting up a coaching infrastructure in schools throughout Ghana to educate children in the skills of Australian Rules Football as a pre cursor to developing local competitions throughout the country.
Above (not shown here) is an artist’s impression of the layout of an Australian Rules Football ground including the positions of the 18 players which make up each team. A full size Australian Rules Football ground will now be constructed as part of the AZNEF Academy in Akuse.
worldfootynews.com asked the AFL's Talent Manager, Kevin Sheehan, what involvement the AFL will have with the program.
"The Azumah Nelson Foundation's approached us as well. We're quite keen to resource them up, but at this stage we're not in a position to actually put full-time people into that country, or any other African country. But we're keen for them to actually establish their FootyWILD, if they can get volunteers to get it started we'll support them with equipment and some education for the people taking it.
We have got a small little FootyWILD centre happening in Kenya already, an Australian taking it, so there's little hubs around that do exist but they don't have any formal links to us. We're quite happy to encourage them but at this stage our absolute priority is the continuation there of what we're trialling there in South Africa, to really build on that to see if we become bullet proof in the next five years in terms of the sport".