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Iberian Snapshot – Spain, Portugal & Catalonia 2013

Europe

As the new Australian Rules season dawns for most European countries, various hibernating footballing leviathans emerge from their winter slumbers. One such region is the Iberian Peninsula where footy lovers in Spain, Portugal, Catalonia and Andorra prepare for the 2013 season.

The love of the game has not necessarily translated to large numbers in these countries, nations and principalities, meaning that regular fixtures are difficult. But that hasn’t stopped the intrepid few from generating interest to keep the code’s flag flying.

SPAIN

According to Dani Ribas, the communications contact for Australian Rules football in Spain, the 2013 season will not see new growth, but a consolidation of the game from last year. “Unfortunately there’s no league in Spain [or] new teams, although we are working on that. It’s hard to recruit new people if you cannot promise them regular matches against other teams. But we do interesting things: we are near to arranging the first match between Madrid Bears and Lisbon Dockers in Portugal and also a friendly tournament in Catalonia in spring.”

Dani adds, “[We have the] Bears in Spain and Dockers in Portugal (9's teams). In Catalonia there are a couple of teams but they don't have a league either. We would like to play Lisbon, Madrid, Catalonia and Andorra in the same league, but distances are too long and [as it stands now] we couldn't afford the travel expenses without any financial aid.”

Nevertheless, those dedicated numbers of people who want to see the game flourish one day are working hard to ensure games of some sort go ahead. It will also be interesting to see whether Spain can again have a team at the Euro Cup in 2013. Early indications are that numbers are low and this may prevent a team from forming. However, given that the location is Bordeaux, it is possible that a Spanish side may yet get there.

PORTUGAL

The updates from David Valente, the president of Futebol Australiano em Portugal, suggest a similar situation this year in Portugal.

According to David, "Currently we're starting to train again, after having stopped for winter. We don't have access to proper grounds, so we must use public parks, without adequate draining. Therefore, when it rains our training ground becomes a proper 'gluepot', as they used to have at the Western Oval or at Glenferrie all those years ago.

We're still in touch with the Madrid Bears and hope to play with them sometime before the end of the spring."

On the positive side, David points out , "apart from that, people are still coming forward showing interest in playing, so our group is growing. Hopefully it'll grow even more now that the AFL season has started and games are on TV again.

I'm sure the game against Madrid will bolster interest and that some people that only practice irregularly now will become more committed.”

Getting the players on to a field is one challenge, but the Lisbon Dockers are also finding access to suitable equipment difficult. As David points out, “basic materials are scarce, though, including footballs. [This is] despite the Fremantle Dockers' goodwill. Still, we have a committed group and hope to start working with the Australian Embassy soon.”

But to offset these difficulties, David still holds out an air of optimism for the future. "It would be great if we could organise competitions between Portuguese, Spanish, Catalonian and Andorran teams, both club and national. We could play in Madrid, which is more central, or rotate host cities. I think that there aren't many international club matches in Europe right now, and we in the Iberian Peninsula could step in to help fill that gap."

With suitable sponsorship it is exciting to imagine a competition which rotates between Madrid, Lisbon, Barcelona and Andorra.

CATALONIA

As has been mentioned by Dani in Spain and David in Portugal, the Catalan team is firmly on the radar of the Lisbon Dockers and the Madrid Bears for matches throughout the season. Whilst these will not be part of a fixture, they will likely be played as stand-alone challenge matches.

Catalonia was previously home to a promising local league with clubs in Barcelona, Valls and Tarragona, however this petered out in the last few years. Former president of Catalan football, Pere Moliner Salinas, confirmed that whilst there is “no regular league” in Catalonia this year, the team (or teams, depending on numbers) will await confirmation from other Iberian Peninsula teams to play various tournaments throughout 2013.

ANDORRA

For a detailed overview of the state of the game in Andorra, World Footy News published the article Andorran AFL – The Phoenix of the Pyrenees.

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Iberian Snapshot – Spain, Portugal & Catalonia 2013 | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Iberian Snapshot – Spain, Portugal & Catalonia 2013
Authored by: Brett Northey on Wednesday, March 27 2013 @ 01:15 am ACDT

It's good to get an update on this region, but sadly it seems things haven't gone so well in recent years.  Back in 2005 we had Spain attend the International Cup, and there were efforts to develop another club to play the Madrid Bears.  That seemed to wane but then Catalonia gained momentum and had quite a few 9-a-side teams playing in a regular league, but that seems to have ceased too.

It would seem that the last few years has seen equal doses of ups and downs in Ireland, the UK and Scandinavia, encouraging signs in France and Germany, and mixed news from Eastern Europe.  I wonder if the GFC is the biggest factor in the lack of progress - as I've said before, Australia has for the most part been blissfully unaware of the extreme financial woes in much of the rest of the world.  Unemployment rates (from the last few months):  Australia 5%, Spain 27%, Portugal 16%, Ireland 15%.  A lot of countries are in the 7 - 10% bracket which is seen as a bit grim, let alone 10 - 30%.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
Iberian Snapshot – Spain, Portugal & Catalonia 2013
Authored by: Harley Vague on Wednesday, March 27 2013 @ 06:14 am ACDT

Money, is deffinitely an issue when you consider youth employment is typically twice the adult rate. Youth employment in Spain is a catastrophic 50%. Along with that you have the difficulty in obtaining affordable playing fields and equipment,If you don't have a local league then travel is a significant added problem.

Iberian Snapshot – Spain, Portugal & Catalonia 2013
Authored by: Wesley Hull on Friday, March 29 2013 @ 02:52 am ACDT

It is interesting that the game has lost momentum in the region, but it may not be on the way out. I wrote this article based on the real and tangible information, but there was much between the lines that is promising.

Both Dani in Spain and David in Portugal expressed the desire to "start again" by keeping things simple and kick starting the one-off challenges.Ii won't go into private conversations and the details, but David certainly has a potential "grand plan" lurking in his mind which is both plausible and achievable. It would involve all 4 "nations" (Spain, Portugal, Catalonia, Andorra) and would be like a travelling footy tour.

The ideas have been heard before, but never really enacted, and David certainly shows the passion and research to make it happen. Some of his ideas on introducing the game at school level are also valid and potentially game changing as a new market of future players is developed. All this is a long way off, but might be a better model to follow that the path taken to date.

It is true that employment (or lack of it) has a dominoo effect, causing peoples interests, opportunities and energies to change. But people like Dani and David understand better these challenges in their own countries, and I do believe that if they can turn things around, they will.