Contributed by: Wesley Hull
The Japanese city of Hiroshima is all set to host a very special ANZAC Day Australian Rules football event. In a year which sees the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing and associated commemorations, the Hiroshima tournament will add yet another international dimension to a worldwide recognition of those who gave their lives in battle.
In their initial information advice, The Hiroshima Cranes stated that “on April 25th, the first Australian football tournament in history will be held in Hiroshima. Australian football or 'Aussie Rules', is Australia's most popular code of football, and is rapidly growing in popularity in Japan. Teams will travel from Osaka, Tokyo and Nagoya to participate.”
“April 25th (ANZAC Day) is Australia and New Zealand's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand troops during World War 1. 2015 is the 100 year anniversary of this event. Respectful ceremony will be a key part of the day.”
According to Jonathan Cooper from the Hiroshima Cranes Australian Football Club and coordinator of the event, “We will fly three flags (Japanese, Australian and New Zealand) and play the three national anthems as well as perform the Minute Silence. We went out to the ground on Sunday and sorted out all the logistics. We should have three or four teams and will play shortened games in a round robin format. We are currently advertising now to get as many there as possible, and are looking around the local community for volunteers. Lots of people in this part of the world are interested in Australia and Australian culture, and hopefully as a result of this event, we can get a second club up and running in Hiroshima.”
The information document produced by the Hiroshima Cranes states that, “respectful ceremony will be a key part of this event. This match will be played at Higashi Hiroshima Sports Park and locals will be encouraged to sit in the 2000 person capacity grandstand.”
The Hiroshima Cranes are keen to further establish the game in western Japan and have an affinity with the hardships and atrocities of war. “The Hiroshima Cranes Australian Football Club is an Australian Football team that was established in the city of Hiroshima in 2014. The club was established through the support of the international football community as well as passionate expatriates who have a keen interest in promoting Australian sporting culture to the people of Hiroshima.
The club was named the Cranes out of respect to the people of the city of Hiroshima. The story of Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes, and the symbolism of the paper crane as an international symbol of peace is a strong image for our club. The playing list is currently made up of Japanese, American, Papua New Guinean, New Zealand and Australian players and a key to our identity will be participation by people from all parts of the world.”
The club’s information goes on to paint a wider picture of Australian Football in Japan. “Australian football was first played in Japan by visiting students in the early 1900s. According to the archives of the Australian War Memorial, a game of football was played in Kure in 1946 between British and Australian troops assisting with the reconstruction of the city after the dreadful events of August 1945. It wasn't until 1986, however, that football really began to develop in Japan.”
“In 1986, two professional teams from the Australian Football league participated in an exhibition match in Tokyo, attracting over 11,000 spectators. From here, teams quickly developed in Keio and Waseda Universities. Since then, teams have been established in Komazawa, Senshu and Shonan Universities. Several other teams which cater to both expats and locals have also been established in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.”
“There are currently eleven teams participating in the Japanese Australian Football League. Until 2013, eight teams participated in a national competition, but from 2014 the teams were divided into Eastern and Western Divisions. The Western Division currently consists of three teams and the Eastern Division consists of eight. In the last three years, four new teams have been established in Japan, and Australian football is rapidly growing in popularity.”
For more information on the ANZAC Day event, or the Hiroshima Cranes, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/hiroshimaafl
World Footy News