Two of the more established Australian football regions are New Zealand and Japan. Sadly both have been hit hard by recent earthquakes. If the devastation of Christchuch was not enough, the quake that hit northern Japan unleashed a massive tsunami, followed by the radiation leaks coming from the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima powerplants. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the people of both countries.
WFN spoke to the President of AFL Japan, Hideki Miyasaka, who explained that "All of our players, families are basically safe at the moment although we have a serious electricity problem in the Tokyo area as some of the plants has been destroyed", before stoically or perhaps ironically adding "Besides that it is pretty much normal.." A remarkable aspect of the disaster has been the resilience of the Japanese people, the bravery of the rescue workers and especially those at the nuclear plants, and the way society has maintained such stability and civility.
In Australia we were proud of the efforts in Queensland to help each other but other disasters remind us that it is not a uniquely Australian spirit. It should also be noted that Japan is one of the biggest donators of aid in the world. AFL Japan is hoping to raise some funds to support the recovery effort, and Hideki has called for help "from all Footy Players around the World!!". All donations will be distributed through the Japanese Red Cross Society (or other relevant charities) to provide relief for the victims.
It may only be March, and one of the teams may only be less than a year old, however this weekend will see Round 1 of the newly formed Southern China Football League (SCAFL) played amongst much fanfare in Guangzhou this Saturday.
In possibly the biggest development in the Asian scene so far this year and another watershed moment for Australian Football in China, four teams in the Pearl River Delta region of China (Guangzhou Scorpions, Hong Kong Red, Hong Kong Blue & Macau Lightning) will come together this Saturday for what’s been billed as the inaugural ‘Gala Round’ and ultimately hold 5 rounds up until June to decide the premier team of the 2011 season.
The league is the third to be started in China in as many years, with the Beijing Bombers and Shanghai Tigers clubs starting 9-a-side leagues, BAFL in 2009 & SHAFL in 2010 respectively, as a way to fill the gaps in competition calendars that long distance can cause. The SCAFL however, is unique in that it is played with 12 players per side, incorporates 3 established clubs in the region who are within only 1-3 hours travel of each other and Guangzhou’s home ground is a world class cricket stadium, used in last year’s Asian Games.
Editor: worldfootynews.com welcomes back Andrew "Sanga" Sawitsch to our writing team, after his extended time working in Japan and China.
On the list of teams hoping to make their International Cup debut in 2011 are Indonesia, planning to field a squad composed both of from players from Indonesia as well as Indonesians resident in Australia. AFL Indonesia Development Officer Lee Van Gils is currently recruiting Indonesian nationals through the West Java league coordinated by the Jakarta Bintangs, with current plans to bring at least 12 local players across from Indonesia, possibly more if the necessary funding can be secured.
The Australian-based contingent are being organised by the Indo Footy Stars, who last year made their debut as Team Indonesia at Aussie Rules International's Harmony Cup, and who are currently preparing for another tilt against other Australian Multicultural community teams at the 2011 HC, this year to be held on March 21st at Collingwood's spiritual home Victoria Park.
The AFL Timor-Leste have decided to withdraw from the running for the 2011 International Cup, and will instead focus on building their domestic competition with a view to making their IC debut in 2014.
Since beginning in 2007, the AFL Timor-Leste has grown to an 11-a-side league of six teams in 2011, with the playing base now composed of over 80% local Timorese. In conjunction with senior footy, the AFLTL has been conducting Auskick clinics, and the Timor Crocs national team has made appearances at tournaments in Bali and Darwin.
The league recently received some assistance from Australia, with the Brisbane Lions sending a full set of their 2010 white away jumpers over to East Timor. Association representative and avid Lions supporter Anthony Draper said "I heard the jumpers were no longer being used and so I asked them if they could help us out, they were fantastic and sent us an entire playing kit plus some balls."
This coming Sunday, the Tokyo Goannas will contest the 2010 Japan AFL Grand Final against the newest club in Japanese football, the Nagoya Redbacks. It is the Redbacks' first Grand Final appearance in just their second JAFL season.
Read on for a match preview, courtesy of Nagoya's Ashley James.
Two weeks ago the Brisbane Lions were defeated by the Melbourne Demons in the AFL clash in Shanghai for the Kaspersky Cup - see Jurrah lights up China match. The curtain raiser, also at Jiangwan Stadium, saw a Japanese Under 21 side take on China in a 9-a-side match. It was a great opportunity for the Japanese to give their younger players a taste of travel for the Samurai, whilst giving AFL China a chance to begin building a national squad.
Even though it was a developmental list it was not surprising that Japan ran away with the match. Wingman Ohashi provided the opening goal, and Samurais midfielders led by Tada, Nakamura, and Ichinose dominated the centre. Centre half forward Ken Sato, who spent 6 weeks at Box Hill North in Victoria as a scholarship player this year, was unstoppable ending up with 8 marks and 3 goals. Hiroki Ichinose also added 3 goals to his superb with 20 disposals. For China the highlight must have been the third quarter goal to Shao Lei.
Unfortunately Brisbane has not renewed the rookie listing for young Japanese-Australian Sean Yoshiura. The history of dropped rookies means it seems unlikely that the 19 year old will be picked up by another AFL club in the near future, and will have to prove himself at state league level to get another AFL chance.
Yoshiura, who was born and initially raised in Japan, was rookie listed at the end of 2009. Ideally he would have become a role model for Asian-Australian players and indeed internationals such as those playing in AFL Japan.
The Dubai Heat continue to build on their reputation as a powerhouse football club, winning their third consecutive Asian Championships. Dubai overcame Singapore in the final, with Hong Kong too strong for Indonesia in the third place playoff. Whilst every team present bar Macau managed to win at least one match, ultimately the previous winners of the tournament who were again participating (Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong) remained in a class of their own.
A fast finishing Melbourne yesterday defeated Brisbane in the Shanghai Showdown. The Dees trailed by as much as 29 points in the final term, but managed to win the match with the last kick of the game, off the boot of Liam Jurrah. This took his tally to five goals and helped earn him Best on Ground.
The match was played out in front of 7,000 fans at Jiangwan Stadium, less than a quarter of the stadium's capacity, and the empty seats were clearly evident on television. An AFL report prior to the match suggested a possible television audience of 30 million. If that many tuned in for the contest it would be less than 3 percent of China's population but more than Australia's whole population. The AFL Grand Final draws around 2.5 million viewers in Australia (12% of population); to reach a total number that is twelve times that amount for a first match on Chinese soil would be quite impressive.
Overall the AFL was happy with the experiment, with David Matthews quoted saying, "Today’s match was a fantastic exhibition of Australian Football in front of a very enthusiastic and big crowd which exceeded our expectations. There’s no doubt we would play another game in China and we will work with our partners and AFL clubs to make that happen.”
Melbourne 12.12 (84) defeated Brisbane Lions 11.13 (79)