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BNFL Indian tour lays foundations


India appears to be one of Australian football's hot spots at the moment, with a growing organisational structure, interest from AFL clubs and grass roots support coming from Australia.  One such example is a recent trip organised by the Bendigo Netball and Football League.  Bendigo is a regional city in Victoria with a strong Aussie Rules culture.  Thanks to Mikey Dynon (a Bendigo local who was involved with India at IC14) for bringing the trip to our attention and to the original author of the report, Bruce Claridge.

Indian Trip Report.

After many months of planning, promotion and anticipation the first BFNL India Trip departed from Tullamarine Airport at 11:30 am on Wednesday November 5th, 2014.

The team's main goal was to prepare the way for future annual trips by connecting with key people in Kolkata who would open doors of opportunity for teams to follow.

The initial team of Bruce and Jan Claridge, Paul Byrne, Connor Byrne, Justin Abrams and Ben and Toni West formed a unified group with a clear mission and the initial expectations of the group were far exceeded as the week together unfolded.

Key Points: 

1. Pre planning was so well done that each day's itinerary fulfilled a key part of our goals. Thanks for this goes to our Indian Host Kaushik Das, our Aussie guide Pastor Rick Mapperson from Sydney and our local travel agent Andrew Zeglin at Travelcentre, Bendigo.

2. Successful football clinics were held in the slum community in Kolkata where Kaushik Das works to help particularly the young people rise above their poverty.We were also able to link, through our football clinic, with a rural community on the outskirts of the city.

3. AFL India's CEO and captain of the Indian National Team, Sudip Chakrobarty, joined us at the clinics and also met twice with Justin and Paul planning ongoing opportunities for the continued relationship with AFL India and the BFNL.  Other AFL India representatives were also present.

4. Visits to the three Mother Teresa Sisters of Charity establishments were not only powerfully moving but also gave opportunity for all team members to consider the blessings we have in in this nation and the responsibility that goes with those blessings.

5. The team's accommodation was excellent, travel well organised, good health was maintained by all and costs were covered.

Where to from Here?

1. Ongoing communication with all parties in India to look at future opportunities in both the development of Aussie Rules and humanitarian aid to our friends in the Kolkata slums.

2. A 2015 trip planned to coincide with AFL India's National Championships where we will provide both practical support and coaching as well as develop relationships.

3. An exhibition game at the conclusion of India's carnival between two teams each comprising of both Bendigo region players and AFL India's best.

4. A commitment from BFNL clubs to sponsor and send at least one player on the November trip in 2015.

5. Exploring the possibility of India's best AFL players coming to Bendigo to spend some months with a local team.

6. The development by Paul, Justin and Bruce of an even more structured and purpose driven itinerary that maximises the time in India for all involved.

7. Consideration of an optional longer stay by team members who choose to do so.

Finally thanks to all who supported our trip.

Particularly the following:

Andrew Zeglin who went well beyond his professional role to help us get to India and home safely!

Paul Byrne and Justin Abrams whose commitment to the team right from the start and their desire to make this trip a part of the BFNL calendar for years to come was extremely heartening.

They were also amazingly generous and co-operative team members.

Connor Byrne who showed that a mature teenage member of the team is a great asset.

Ben and Toni West, who have a heart to see India's poorest helped in some meaningful ongoing way, were outstanding team members. Their support for Jan and I continues to be exemplary and amazes me.

Thanks also to the Golden Square Football and Netball Club for generously covering the costs of our internal transportation around Kolkata.

Finally to have such a supportive wife beside me in these ventures is a blessing beyond words,

Thanks to all who made this such a great inaugural trip,

Yours with much gratitude,
Bruce Claridge.

Sports Chaplaincy Australia

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