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Asian footy future: Is it time for Asian All Stars at International Cup?

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We continue our series on the Asian footy future with a piece that considers how to give players a pathway to international representation even if their own nation is not yet able to field its own fully local team.

The issue of the expat dominated Asian competitions comes to my mind every International Cup, mostly due to the absence of so many countries in Asia that are not represented. Japan have for a long time been involved in footy and have both expat dominated clubs and grass roots locals clubs (mostly dominated by Uni Students that they lose once they move on to employment) and have played in all International Cups. Then along came China and India who have both been able to put together national squads at the last two international cups (with some numerical support from Chinese and Indians in Australia). East Timor were the latest to join the competition in 2011.

But how to get more of the countries in Asia where footy is played involved? The obvious answer is to grow the game in the individual countries among the nationals of those countries. Ideally build up a healthy pool of individuals, pick your national team, raise the funds and the job is done. To my mind nothing beats grass roots, self sustaining community football clubs who can produce and provide their elite players to representative football.

For a variety of reasons it is clearly not that simple.

Some clubs are happy with the expat makeup of their footy team, others have had limited success in reaching out to the locals and converting them into regular Aussie Rrules footballers. The geographical realities of some clubs mean that they have to fly internationally for away games and the costs and visa issues mean that even if they wanted to play the nationals of those countries cannot realistically play in those matches.

The introduction of the World XVIII team in the national Under 16 Championships is one way that the AFL have been able to provide a junior talent pathway for young footballers from all parts of the world. In fact last year saw the first Asian internationals Thomas Murphy from Hong Kong and Richard Wood (pictured) from Indonesia play in the team (other Australian based players of Asian parentage or background have played in the World XVIII team). We would hope in the future that we start to see many more.*

But what about senior international competition such as the International Cup? For those playing around the world in a nation that is unable to send a team it is the chance to represent their country in an elite international squad. The introduction of the Peace team in 2008 was a very successful move that made a statement that the International Cup was also about greater themes and while the players were representing either Israel or Palestine they also represented numerous other ideals and were able to combine and overcome the obvious political and religious differences and many other obstacles that were not so obvious.

To my mind that opened the way for other combined teams in the future. And this is what I would suggest for Asia. For there to be an Asian All-Stars team. The team would be made up of players from across the Asian countries, much like the World XVIII team. Of course this would require someone to organise it. Which may be the AFL but more likely either and individual or a body such as the proposed AFL Asia.

While not a national team many nations would be represented and give the opportunity for those nationals that play among expats and those that play in countries that cannot afford a full squad to travel to Australia to take part. To my mind such a team would of course play in the lowest divisions of the International Cup preferably, to keep Division 1 always for stand alone nations.

The much touted strength of the network of expats playing footy in these countries could be harnessed to raise funds and sponsorship for these nationals to attend the International Cup where they would be normally unable to afford themselves. They would also be able to volunteer to make up the coaching and support staff and use their networks to keep costs down in Australia. Two players from each of eight countries that are not currently represented would be a long way towards a squad and if there was a shortfall, numbers could be made up from Australian based Asian players (eligible under IC rules) and even non-selected players from other Asian nations such as Japan and China might be interested in playing in an All Stars team?

For those that have seen behind the scenes of the International Cup up close, it is a real opportunity for players and administrators of footy from around the world who may at times feel quite isolated, to feel part of the greater footy world and share their experiences and passions. Just the sort of thing that can spark a fire in people to want to return home and bring something bigger and better next time around. In the All Stars scenario I would hope it would inspire at least some of the players to want to return home to build their own national teams. And for their supportive expat team mates back in Asia to also see the growth of those individuals when they return and be inspired to want to repeat and grow the game more in their adopted countries among the locals.

So a lot of wishful thinking or a worthwhile road to go down?

Next we report on the launch of the East Asian AFL and the rapid developments to include new teams and maybe even an All-Star concept.

* Players from East Timor were selected in 2011 but unable to attend due to visa issues.

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Asian footy future: Is it time for Asian All Stars at International Cup? | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
ASIAN CUP
Authored by: dongstrong99 on Sunday, February 10 2013 @ 06:35 pm ACDT

To lump all players together in an Asian team will be more difficult to organize and create a selection process.  

The Peace team is a different situation as it was a mechanism to bring peace to religious and political difficulties in the region. In asia we don't have these issues Christian, catholic and, Hindu and buddhist tend to coexist much better.

It is only fair allow locals the opportunity represent "their country" in International cups along with the expat teams and not lump them together under something we create from an Anglo perspective. 

The proposal to work on is to have each country field an expat team and a locals team. 

Now EAAFL has been established it can work to attract sponsors and such sponsorship would be more forthcoming if they have  teams of locals.

It is obvious this will need work and we can have showcase games in 2013 with some teams that have locals ready for this as a step by step with sponsors. There is Indonesia, India, Borneo, Japan, East Timor, Loas  and mainland China to choose from for this showcase. 

This will create a base which can be formalized in 2014. The choice is always there for expat teams to work on having a locals team or not. They can still field there national expat team. 

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ASIAN CUP
Authored by: Brett Northey on Sunday, February 10 2013 @ 10:57 pm ACDT

It's great to see that the EAAFL is off and running and leading to greater communication with the idea of more local representation.

But I do want to pick up on what I think is a misunderstanding with the comment:

"It is only fair allow locals the opportunity represent "their country" in International cups along with the expat teams and not lump them together under something we create from an Anglo perspective."

There are no expat teams at the International Cups.  And there is no suggestion that locals should not represent their country.

As Troy has said, the idea is not to prevent Asian players from getting to play at the IC, it's to allow them a chance if and only if their home country does not yet have a national side able to make it.  Many countries can scrape together 20 to 30 local players but that's a long long way from being able to get them to all have the time and money to go.  So instead we have players unable to go and experience and be inspired by the celebration of international footy that is the International Cup.

I don't think putting together an All-Stars side is a particularly "Anglo" concept.  It is common throughout world sport to group people geographically for the purpose of sport, such as the President's Cup in golf sees the US versus the rest of the world grouped together (less Europe), and the Ryder Cup sees the US versus Europe.

There are no expat teams at the International Cups.  If a country does not field a side it's because it doesn't have the local players or time or money or inclination.  Giving them a chance to go seems the fairest and best way to inspire them, and I believe there's some precedent with some Scandinavian players slipping into various IC teams in the past.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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ASIAN CUP
Authored by: Brett Northey on Sunday, February 10 2013 @ 11:10 pm ACDT

So none of what we're suggesting re the International Cup prevents individual Asian nations from fielding sides at the IC or in the EAAFL, it purely is to provide a fallback when numbers are insufficient for the huge cost that is attending the IC.

I've also thought it would be great for South America to enter a combined side at the International Cup, because they are so isolated from the rest of the international footy community and seem a long way off being able to have any one country make it.  It would be a great way for the few locals in Brazil, Chile and Argentina to come together, represent their broader region, make contact with the AFL, build relationships with the AFL, amongst each other, amongst leagues in Australia, and go home inspired to next time hopefully return with their own national side.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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Asian footy future: Is it time for Asian All Stars at International Cup?
Authored by: Troy Thompson on Sunday, February 10 2013 @ 09:46 pm ACDT

Thanks 99,  firstly let me say that I agree fully that stand alone national teams is what you want, and picked from a strong local competition even better. I used the Peace Team as an example of the AFL allowing a combined team to compete rather than as a comparable template.  I agree a combined Asian team would be a different prospect to the Peace Team for a number of reasons.

I would not think of disallowing locals to represent their country, but for a number of reasons this has not been able to happen.  My suggestion would be purely a bridging measure to be more inclusive of those locals that are playing the game and allow them to represent their country as part of a combine - at least until they can do it as a standalone team. 

I don't think you will see expats at the International Cup and it would take an amazing turn around in attitude on this from the AFL and competing countries.  However there may be support for a limited number of expats to play for new countries alongside nationals in the bottom division (or a seperate division altogether).

Any discussions and advances that can lead to a more organised and unified footy scene in Asia can only be a good thing and I wish all involved great success with the EEAFL. 

It is interesting the relatively modern idea of representing your home country (or state in State of Origin) as adopted in the International Cup.  In all other representative footy over time you represented the league, region or state that you played in that current season, even if you may play against a league or state you played for the previous year.  I am certainly in support of this idea of no expats at the IC though.  But perhaps in our lifetime the game will be played enough around the world that nationals of foreign countries will be the equal or better of any expats that may be playing in their country and such a rule may no longer be needed.

 

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