Australian Trade Commissioner and Vice President of Australian Rules Football Association in India, Tom Calder, was special guest at the closing ceremony of the "Swarnim Khel Mahakumbh" in Ahmedabad, a mass scale sports carnival organized by the Gujarat state Government as a part of the program to celebrate 50 years of the formation of the West Indian state.
Participation at the event saw nearly 1.3 million participants of various ages competing in 24 different sports at 1,100 venues across the state. The event is the brainchild of Chief Minister Narendra Modi who has a strong pro-sports agenda and who declared in his speech that the carnival would become an annual event.
During his speech at the event Tom asked the Chief Minister to consider promoting the unique Australian sport in Gujarat as a way of increasing Australian-Gujarati sports links and presented an AFL India branded Sherrin to him on stage (pictured at left).
We've been discussing the future of footy in Asia and in particular calls to involve more locals. One proposal was a peak body to help promote and coordinate the game, including with more internationals and quotas to ensure most players are locals. The difficulty of getting that started is the cost of travel, something expats normally find more viable. As it turns out several Asian clubs have already committed to a league in 2013, inevitably to be expat dominated, but hopefully a basis on which to build deeper roots in their adopted countries.
The Vietnam Swans have put forward a proposal to the Asian footy community of an East Asia Australian Football League (EAAFL) in an effort to bring structure, uniformity and increased credibility to Asian football. The eventual objective is to be able to play a home and away series throughout the year, have a ladder and be able to state a premier at the end.
With clubs existing in Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, East Timor, Japan and Vietnam, the potential number of teams able to participate is considerably high. Teams of expatriates are generally better funded and would most likely make up the majority, but there is also reasonable growth of teams with local talent.
Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand earlier confirmed their participation for the 2013 season, and in late breaking news Jakarta (Indonesia) and Singapore have joined in the last week and and just in the last couple of days Laos became team number seven. More teams may follow suit in the coming weeks.
We continue our series on the Asian footy future with a piece that considers how to give players a pathway to international representation even if their own nation is not yet able to field its own fully local team.
The issue of the expat dominated Asian competitions comes to my mind every International Cup, mostly due to the absence of so many countries in Asia that are not represented. Japan have for a long time been involved in footy and have both expat dominated clubs and grass roots locals clubs (mostly dominated by Uni Students that they lose once they move on to employment) and have played in all International Cups. Then along came China and India who have both been able to put together national squads at the last two international cups (with some numerical support from Chinese and Indians in Australia). East Timor were the latest to join the competition in 2011.
But how to get more of the countries in Asia where footy is played involved? The obvious answer is to grow the game in the individual countries among the nationals of those countries. Ideally build up a healthy pool of individuals, pick your national team, raise the funds and the job is done. To my mind nothing beats grass roots, self sustaining community football clubs who can produce and provide their elite players to representative football.
For a variety of reasons it is clearly not that simple.
Over the last few years we've had numerous articles chronicling the rebirth of Australian football in India, but recently AFL India drew our attention to a great article by Glen Cullen on the Australia Unlimited website that very nicely put the whole journey together in one story. With permission we reproduce it below. Original article is here: It ain't cricket
One per cent of India’s population is roughly half Australia’s population. So a significant fan base could emerge from converting a small percentage of that country’s bat and ball fanatics to a brand new game.
A young man who wanted to direct Bollywood films; a tour operator stationed in Mumbai; and a UK-based educator – yes, it sounds like the start of a joke. But for Sudip Chakraborty, Lincoln Harris and Rick Shrowder the sport of Aussie Rules is more than just a lark. This triumvirate, very different backgrounds and interests notwithstanding, is passionate about India and also about Australia’s native football code.
Until the end of 2012 the three worked mainly independently of one another, but in December they met at the first Indian national Australian Rules Championships in the southern state of Kerala.
In India, as we all know, cricket is more than just a game. It’s the game. Up to 80 per cent of the country’s 1.2 billion inhabitants are thought to watch or play it in some fashion. Almost 68 million Indians tuned in to watch their side win the 2011 World Cup. The major international series – the Indian Premier League – has a market value estimated at $US3billion.
In the second article on the future of Australian football in Asia, we spoke with Darrell Egan (founder of the Donnguan Blues in China) about how has been engaging locals in the game and the way to replicate and sustain such a program. In today's piece Darrell expands on his thoughts about developing an Asia-wide body to ensure the region stops being left behind in footy progress. Later we'll talk to some of the other Asian clubs, including a separate proposal for a Southeast Asian league, and we hope to discuss with the AFL their vision for the region.
We put it to Darrell that he'd mentioned to us the concept of setting up a body or league for footy in Asia and possibly the Pacific. Are you thinking Asia-Pacific or just Asia? Did he see it as being a formal governing body for the game in Asia or just a forum for developing ideas and setting up matches?
"The first thing is we have to ask is... Where is Aussie rules going international? What fruits can bear from the hard pioneering work Australians have have done bringing the game to these countries?
"The direction needs to be more local engagement which in turn attracts large global sponsors to those countries as you are including their demographic. We have to make these global footy pioneering Australians or locals feel their hard work has counted for something and this has to be a well structured, well sponsored and supportive formal peak body to empower them on the ground.
"Also Asia demographically is a great place to kick off Australian Rules football in a formal international sense".
As mentioned in our opening piece on the future of Australian football in Asia, getting more locals involved is something that has largely escaped the game when compared with South Africa, Europe and the South Pacific. Darrell Egan is one expat Australian who has found no such difficulty getting local Chinese involved in the sport and he has many thoughts on how to take footy forward - in fact it was Darrell's enthusiasm for change that prompted this series of articles.
First up we thought we should learn a little more about Darrell's background.
"I come from east of Melbourne and played football with the Heathmont Football club. From my teenage years throughput the 80's age of dealing with issues of bullying, racial issues friends of mine would cop and also my self being associated with them which did not effect my multiracial racial friendships. On a trip to Cloncurry in Queensland which my father took me at the age of sixteenI saw racism which nearly saw me in a blue with a redneck. These experiences taught me that comfortable "in crowds" can form with an exclusive and victimizing attitude and good mentoring for young people is important in society as these attitudes are generational.
"Later in life I went on to be involved in a leadership program with Indigenous youth seeing them play a completely traditional game of Marngrook at the Nicky Winmar Cup in 2002. This is the team we formed (see ABC article here). This was a cultural and career revelation which saw more interest from me in football and education".
worldfootynews.com is commencing a series of articles about the future of Australian football in Asia.
In the South Pacific footy is booming with growing numbers of countries involved, tens of thousands of kids getting exposed through AFL and AusAID supported mass participation programs, talent pathways giving youngsters a clear route to the AFL, and players beginning to appear on AFL scholarship and international rookie lists. In Europe there are many countries involved in Australian football and with AFL Europe formed to help them coordinate there are numerous tournaments and solid (although not spectacular) growth. Africa is somewhat untapped but has 20,000 players in South Africa. North America is steady although in South America the surface has barely been scratched. But what of Asia?
"Traditionally" this region has been slow to get locals involved in the game. Most clubs are heavily based on expat-Australians and with a few other Western nationals involved. Japan has been the most obvious exception, with their Top League slowly growing and mostly featuring Japanese players. Sporadic efforts have been made to get locals involved in other countries, such as a junior league in Indonesia. China showed great promise with reportedly thousands of school children playing the game in Suzhou (near Shanghai) around 2009. However these programs appear to be exceptions rather than commonplace, and it's not clear if they've continued.
After a few years of hard work to get Footy rolling in different parts of the country, finally AFL India successfully hosted the inaugural Aussie Rules tournament in India earlier this month, at Kozhikode, a southern Indian coastal city in the state of Kerala. The tournament saw five teams - the Mahim Cats and Matunga Tigers from Mumbai, North Kozhikode Bombers and South Kozhikode Giants from Kozhikode and Madurai Kangaroos from Madurai, playing each other in a round robin format to qualify for the Grand Final.
A fantatsic show of skills and sportsmanship were on display as the players from different sporting and economic backgrounds and different age groups faced each other, all aiming to lift the first ever AFL India – OGM Cup, sponsored by Perth based mining company OGM, along with its Indian counterpart RP Group of Companies. Eventually it was an all Kozhikode Grand Final, where the Giants were beaten in a close contest by the Bombers, who clinched the trophy.
The tournament was organised by Australian Football Association of Kerala at Malabar Christian College grounds in Kozhikode, Kerala on 2nd December 2012, and was inaugurated by Dr. Muneer, honourable Minister of Social Welfare and Panchayat, Government of Kerala, who handed over the match ball to the umpires.
AFL India held an official media launch for the tournament in Gurgaon last week, where they announced OGM (Oil and Gas Mining) as a major sponsor, and the company's ambassador, former Australian Test cricket captain Steve Waugh, as the tournament's patron.
AFL clubs Richmond, Essendon and GWS and Big Bash club the Melbourne Stars all sent in signed jumpers as auction items, which have assisted AFL India raise money for the tournament.
Thanks to AFL India president Sudip Chakraborty (pictured) for contributing this article.
It has been over a year since India won its first international match of footy against Timor Leste during AFL International Cup 2011 on 24th August. A historic day in Indian sports history. A day that came after almost four years since India started playing the game officially.
After a fairly good show in the later stages of IC08, the players had gone back to a complete standstill for over a year, with the previous body in charge disappearing due to lack of interest and enthusiasm. That was when two of the players from the IC08 squad took up the challenge and got the AFL to dissolve the previous body and helped them set up a new board to get things going again.