Contributed by: Troy Thompson
In just 365 days it will all be on again. Footy players from around the world will be in Melbourne, the months (and in some cases years) of preparations will be over. The tournament will be launched. Promotional shots will be done. New footy jumpers will be laid out. Everyone (most who have paid their own way) will be ready to play footy for their country in the city where the game was founded
It will be different for every nation. Some will have been working on their team since IC14 wound up, they will be at least partly funded by well organised sponsorship campaigns or alternate forms of funding. Some will have been scraping a squad and the funding to get them here together for the past few months. There are always some nations that are touch and go to attend up until the final week before the first bounce.
One thing is likely as with each of the previous tournaments it will be bigger and better than ever. In 2011 18 men's teams and 7 women's teams competed (with USA and Canada each sending a second women's team. In 2017 we may see the return of nations that couldn't make it in 2011. Two of these teams the "Peace Team" comprised of Israeli and Palestinian players and the Timor Leste Crocs have both shown positive signs in recent times that gives hope to their reprise.
Denmark finished fourth in 2002 but were unable to attend 2014. They were dearly missed and hopes are high that they will also return in 2011. The PNG men's team won the 2014 tournament but their women's team, the PNG Flames were unable to attend and they also seem likely to return in 2017.
Other teams that have previously competed such as Samoa and Spain do not look likely to be back in 2017 but there are hopes there will some new teams present this time around. One of those is "Indochina" which is a proposed team from AFL Asia which would be made up of nationals from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
The Pakistan Shaheens debuted at the 2014 International Cup as a team that was very different to others that had competed in International Cup competition previously. The Shaheens were all locally (Australian) based players rather than a team from the competing nation travelling to represent the footy as played in their own country. Their presence was questioned by many who believed the team really belonged in one of the multicultural tournaments held regularly in Melbourne. Whether the Shaheens can return in 2017 with players from footy in Pakistan remains to be seen, we were told in 2014 that their team made up exclusively of expats would be a one-off.
Other potential nations in the men's competition that could debut in 2017 would likely come out of Europe. Croatia were close to attending in 2014, but could not cover the financial cost and Germany have to date chosen to spend their money and remain playing locally in Europe. Russia, Iceland, Norway and Portugal would all be outsiders but some countries have made late rallies to attend before.
In the women's competition debuting nations will likely be Great Britain and New Zealand. There is also some hope that South Africa, France and China could also bring women's teams.
Eligibility is always an issue at the International Cup with a number of nations having players that fit within the qualification rules but have a significant number of Australian based players who have played all or most of their footy in Australia and in some cases not at all in their own country. When those players turn out to be dominant players in their team their are always questions from the opposition as to whether that is really fair. At this stage we believe the eligibility rules will remain the same and while they are a pretty good balance to ensure that those who have learnt the game in Australia as kids/teens cannot compete there will inevitably be some debate about individuals and the overall makeup of teams.
Another major issue for the International Cup is the structure of the tournament. Past tournaments have tried to allow all nations to win the tournament if they were good enough. Lightning rounds of shorter matches were introduced to give weaker teams a chance to play against the best teams and maintain a hope of winning the competition. But even with reduced duration of these matches many blow-outs still occurred in 2008 and 2011. With even more teams likely to play in 2017 we may see multiple divisions from the beginning of the tournament this time around. Regardless there will be some nations that are not happy no matter what structure the tournament ultimately takes.
Between now and August 5th, 2017 there will be a lot of hard work on and off the field around the world to once again make it all happen and once again give players the chance to represent their country playing Australian football. It will come around quickly, we hope you are all ready. We are looking forward to it.
World Footy News