Much work to be done, but China are definites for IC11
Tuesday, March 22 2011 @ 04:41 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Andrew Sawitsch
Strange for me to be now writing on this subject with a less involved role, after 7 years in China and the last 4 years as an AFL China Development Officer, I am now based in Victoria. While I will always stay interested and assist where possible with the Chinese footy scene, I have handed the baton on and look forward to seeing a bright future for Australian Football in China continue.
In my time in the role, my personal highlight was the China Red Demons’ debut in the 2008 AFL International Cup. Witnessing the journey, from a group of boys drawn from various regions and ethnic groups across China, 70% of who had months prior never heard of the game, to seeing them on a suburban field in Melbourne, wearing their national colours and celebrating with tears and gusto when they finally got a win, was a very special moment.
LEFT: Some of the local recruits at Beijing ARFC training.
Now the year is 2011, and in a few months more than 20 football nations will converge on Australia once again for a fourth International Cup tournament.
China has seen quite a bit of footy over the last 12 months. The Chinese clubs Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and more recently Guangzhou and Macau have galvanised and continued in regular matches, and in 2010 Shanghai hosted the Asian Championships for the first time. An AFL exhibition match was also played on Chinese soil for the first time ever, part of this included a China v Japan U21s match; so naturally, it would be expected to have China as attendees at IC11. Fortunately, there is planning underway and a group committed to seeing the Red Demons return once again.
I recently touched base with Mic Mittasch for an update on how efforts are going to get a Chinese team to Australia this year. Mic is president of the Beijing Bombers Australian Football club, and has been very active in the China Reds (open nationality team for international tours such as Asian Champs) as well as incorporating local participation. Mic has been based in China for more than 10 years and his company, Mitchells, along with Australian-based partner, Oomiak, were major sponsors of the China Red Demons at IC08, as reported in Mitchells and Oomiak back Chinese bid.
At the moment there is no AFL Development Officer formally based in China and a coach for the Chinese squad is not confirmed, however with the Chinese clubs being well established and there now being a sizable Australian-based Chinese Footy community (from previous involvement in IC08 and the Chinese clubs), Mic is the contact point for the time being, bringing together existing networks and getting some planning and fundraising together for China’s effort at IC11.
As training resumes for the 2011 season, both the Beijing Bombers and Shanghai Tigers have had encouraging numbers of locals at training, most being students of Beijing and Shanghai Sport Universities respectively, and as previously reported, the newly formed SCAFL, will hopefully be able to unveil some local talent as well. Similar to last time, any Australia based Chinese footy players would be welcomed to the squad. Jiaming Pi and Ming Liu were key players both on and off field in IC08 and it is hoped some more can be recruited from Melbourne and Sydney this year also.
Seeing as off-field organisation and fundraising is such a big issue, it makes the on-field prospect seem somewhat secondary. Just making it on the field would be the real victory and learning experience for the squad and be further promotion for the great developments in China recently. The China Red Demons have only registered one win, over India, in its handful of matches over the last three years and have struggled to retain a lot of its IC08 squad, seeing as many have graduated from University and moved away.
With a large number of new attendees to IC11, they should be competitive in the lower divisions. Mic Mittasch comments...”If the competition is divided into 3 divisions I believe that China should play in the 3rd division, in IC2008 China played against some of the stronger nations and even though they did get something out of it, it was disheartening to get beaten so easily. With the divisions we can expect some much closer games amongst teams that are more evenly matched”
The following is a further summary from Mic...
• Costs, as the majority of the players are in Universities and cannot afford to pay for the trip to Australia so all money must be raised.
• Distance, China is a huge country and we are trying to get representation from all major cities.
• Aussie rules is not well known in China, we hope with the continued work at developing the game in China we may unearth our own Yao Ming.
• Player turnover and age, as mentioned the bulk of the team are University students and once they complete their studies the majority will move back out of the major cities. This also means that we will always have a very young team, which is an advantage in some respects but also means we have young bodies out on the field as well.
• This time around we want to target the Australian Chinese community more to become involved with the China National team; we will be organizing a number of functions in Melbourne before and during the IC2011.
• We will have players representing China from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou & Macau, expect about 50% of the team will come from Beijing with some players having participated in IC2008. As mentioned before we will have a young squad with average age of 22 years."
Anyone who is keen to assist in any way with the China Red Demons’ IC11 campaign is encouraged to get in contact via WFN.
BELOW: Some of the local contingent from the Shanghai Tigers.