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Sunday, April 20 2014 @ 10:49 PM CST

Footy in Argentina still kicking

South America

Aussie Rules has been played in Argentina since 1997, but news from the country has been somewhat hard to come by. Ricardo Acuña has been a driving force in developing the game through the country's alternative sports organisations and his program is still continuing, through a small league known as the AAFAu. Brian Dixon also visited the country last year and established another contact for footy in the country. WFN recently spoke with Acuña about the state of play with the AAFAu, as well as with the AFL about Dixon's new point of contact.

Australian Rules football arrived in Argentina back in 1997. Ricardo Acuña became aware of the sport whilst watching Gillette World Sports Special on television, and saw, behind its perceived physicality, an exciting and athletic game (the large grabs and big bumps that will leave an AFL crowd on the edge of their seats can leave foreign, first-time viewers, who are used to quite different games, a little horrified).

Keen to take the game to the Argentinean people, Acuna made sure that CODA Sports, an organisation that he was instrumental in setting-up, included Aussie Rules under their banner. CODA Sports in turn set up the Australian Football Argentine Association (AAFAu) to organise clinics, seminars and competitions. To assist them, Brian Clarke sent over some written material and Burley contributed ten footballs.

CODA Sports is the Argentine National Games and Alternative Sports Commission. They are recognised by the Argentinean government as the official body of more than 20 'alternative sports' of which Aussie Rules is included. Importantly, it provides a structure for football and a means to greater exposure.

2007 marks the tenth anniversary of Aussie Rules' establishment in Argentina, but it wasn’t until 2004 that things really began moving –- with seminars, clinics and the odd event held yearly thereafter in Buenos Aires. In 2006, four clubs – the Aguilas (Eagles), Bulldogs, Bombers and Demonios (Demons) all competed in two 7-a-side football competitions, played on a soccer pitch to which they added football posts. An under-19s championship with male and female divisions was also held. The AAFAu has 50 players on its roster, with nine of those Australians, so amongst the group there is a reasonable knowledge of the game and its rules.

The CODA Sports website will be updated later this month with last year's competition results and photos. Another competition, involving the same teams will be held this year around Grand Final time.

In addition to all this, in early 2007 CODA Sports held seminars for 1536 physical education teachers throughout Buenos Aires, instructing them on the basics of the sport, and how to host the game in its simplified 7-a-side format (more suitable given the absence of ovals, plus with the 7-a-side version having limited contact, it provides a better atmosphere for those learning the game). Acuña will judge its success by comparing the number of schools which implemented Aussie Rules as part of their sports program in 2007 compared with the 2006 figure of 11 schools. If enough schools adopt Aussie Rules, a school tournament may even be held later in the year.

Brian Dixon also tried to assist the football push into Argentina. During his world tour, he visited Argentina and secured an additional football contact there. The AFL was in touch with this contact, and planned to have them send some delegates to Australia for a similar football induction offered to the Indians. Unfortunately, Josh Vanderloo of the AFL told WFN this "never took place as an agreement couldn’t be reached regarding various levels to support". Whilst only time will tell whether or not this new contact can still assist in the fast tracking of football in Argentina, for the time being, it appears the sport is wholly reliant on the efforts of CODA Sports.

One of the major aims of Dixon’s trip was to get Argentina to the 2008 International Cup, although this now looks increasingly unlikely. Acuña told WFN that repercussions from the country’s financial crisis in 2001 can still be felt today. He does however plan to involve Argentina in footy's international scene in some form in the near future. He also hopes to have the AAFAu website relaunched sometime this year.

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