The Vice President of China, Xi Jinping, attended last week's AFL match between Carlton and Fremantle on the invitation of dignitaries which included, "AFL commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick and Victorian premier John Brumby." Xi has previously been named amongst the Top 100 most influential people in the world, by Time magazine.
After the rules were explained in Mandarin by a Southern Dragons player, Xi expressed an interest in the sport, enquiring if any players were of Chinese heritage and was excited by the prospect of future players being recruited from China. When he later addressed a trade delegation, he even made mention of his night at the footy. If the sport has made a positive impression on Xi, this could add serious momentum to the sport's expansion into the world's biggest country, as Xi is likely successor to current president Hu Jintao.
Melbourne play the Brisbane Lions in an exhibition match at Jiangwan Sports Centre in Shanghai on 17 October 2010, with a crowd of up to 30,000 a possibility.
The Bali Geckos Australian Rules team topped off hosting a very successful Powerade Bali Masters 9’s tournament by winning the championship. The Geckos defeated a team made up of Darwin firefighters in a fairly one-sided final of the cup division.
With 13 teams participating, this year’s tournament saw the largest number of teams to compete in an AFL tournament anywhere in Asia. The eleven teams from last year’s event all returned, and were joined by debutants the Motley Men from Victoria and the eventual runners-up the Darwin Firies.
The large number of teams, seven from Australia and six from Asia, saw the event split into two separate divisions, the Cup and the Plate competitions. The growing size of the tournament forced organisers to hold the event over two days at Bali’s leading sporting facility, the Canggu Club.
The Hong Kong Dragons will meet new local rivals the Macau Lightning and Pokfulam Vikings this weekend, with a three-match schedule kicking off at Hong Kong's new Kai Tak Cricket Ground at 11am this Saturday.
The match will mark the first official match for the Macau Lighting, who only formed 12 months ago and have been focussing on Auskick and junior development in the former Portuguese outpost. A strong contingent of players and supporters is expected to venture from Macau across to Hong Kong for the day, lead by former Dragon Troy Harris. Macau have also signaled their intent to make their first appearance at an Asian Championships this year, when the best of Asian footy converges on Shanghai in October.
The Dragons' cross-town rivals the Pokfulam Vikings are also to play their first-ever match this weekend, having been formed by a number of Dragons players living in that area of Hong Kong.
For their part, the host Dragons will be looking to use this day as a platform to launch their assault on a 3rd consecutive Manila Cup Crown on Saturday May 29th, whilst also getting in some much needed match practice before the Vietnam Swans sail into harbour on May 22nd.
In other Chinese footy news, the China Cup is coming to Hong Kong this September, when the Shanghai Tigers and Beijing Bombers fly in to battle the Dragons for supremacy in the Chinese footy community.
An article by Jennifer Witham for the AFL website reports that the Kaspersky AFL Cup, October's match in Shanghai between Melbourne and Brisbane, is a chance to be broadcast live into the Shanghai region. If so, it could reach 100 million viewers and be a great introduction for the game into the Chinese market.
As previously reported, the AFL has been in talks with the Shanghai Media Group to broadcast the match live, and the concept has been boosted with a recent radio broadcast in Mandarin of Melbourne's minor round match against Brisbane by Jamie Pi on 3CW, a Chinese language radio station in Melbourne.
Furthermore, the AFL, Monash and La Trobe University ticket giveaway appears to have been a success, with 2605 students attending the match.
The Melbourne Football Club have been active in pushing the game into China for several years, but for a while appeared to lose momentum as they struggled on and off the field. 2010's on field revival certainly makes the Demons a much more viable option to promote Aussie Rules to China and international students in Melbourne.
Monash's director of sport Martin Doulton said the opportunity to attend Saturday's match was enthusiastically received by the students.
"For our many international students and staff who came along with their Australian friends and colleagues this was truly an iconic Australian cultural experience that will live in their memory for many, many years," he said.
"Lots of students commented on the fact that rival fans could mingle together without the need for fences to separate the rival tribes that is so prevalent overseas."
The Bali Geckos will this June be hosting the 2010 Bali Masters 9s Australian Rules Football Championship. Held at the Canggu Club, Bali, the event is looking set to be Asia’s biggest ever Aussie Rules event. 11 teams have already registered for the tournament, including teams from across Australia, as well as East Timor and Dubai. A number of other teams are keen to join, with a projected 16 teams from six countries expected to play in this year’s tournament.
The event sees teams play following specially modified 9-a-side rules, with the inclusion that all players must be over 35 years of age. The event is endorsed by AFL Masters, who are the governing body for Masters rules football in Australia. With the large number of teams attending games will be played over two days, with the grand final being played under lights.
The Bali Geckos have a history of setting the standard in Asian football. The club’s uniquely conceived Bali 9s increased the professionalism of Aussie Rules tournaments in Asia. At the time the Bali 9s were the biggest footy events on the continent, even attracting the then Australian Prime Minister John Howard to attend.
The 2010 Bali Masters 9s Australian Rules Football Championship will be held at the Canggu Club Friday June 11 and Saturday June 12. More information can be found at www.baligeckos.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indonesia may next year become the fourth Asian nation to appear at the International Cup, with hopes that the vibrant league composed entirely of local Indonesians in the Jakarta area could provide the necessary recruits to send a team downunder.
Dan Delaney from the AFL Indonesia says development of Australian rules in Indonesia has focussed on lower socio-economic areas, and the organisation would therefore have to find the funding to pay for all the squad's costs.
This would make the project a costly affair, but with a number of funding avenues being examined, the support of expat-based footy clubs such as the Jakarta Bintangs and some assistance from Indonesian international students in Melbourne through the Indo Footy Stars, Delaney believes the project is both achievable and also worthwhile from sporting and social development perspectives.
Following the creation of the Beijing AFL in 2009, the Shanghai Tigers kicked off China's second domestic Australian rules football competition on March 27th, with the North Shanghai Crows, West Shanghai Dockers and Shanghai Eagles clashing in a four-match afternoon of footy at the Shanghai Rugby Football Club.
Players from Australia, China, Ireland, US, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea pulled on the boots for the three teams, with the Eagles defeating both the other sides to sit on top of the ladder after round one.
The AFL's China Development Manager Andrew Sawitsch is now based in Shanghai, and has been working to introduce a modified version of Auskick into the city's schools. There are also plans to start senior football at the Shanghai Sports University, players from which could form the nucleus of the Chinese team at next year's International Cup.
With the announcement of an AFL exhibition match between the Melbourne Demons and Brisbane Lions to be played in Shanghai's Jiangwan Stadium in October 2010, there has never been a more exciting time for the Australian game in China.
The Vietnam Swans have announced that they will this year host their first ANZAC memorial match on the weekend of 24-25 April this year. The match will be a domestic clash, with the Hanoi Hawks taking on the Saigon Saints in Vung Tau, close to Saigon and Long Tan.
ANZAC Day, which commemorates Australia and New Zealand's fallen soldiers, is a common fixture for international footy events, with matches this year scheduled in places of significance to Australian military history including Villiers-Bretonneux in France, Hellfire Pass in Thailand, and Long Tan in Vietnam.
Back in 2004 and 2005, teams from some of Melbourne's multicultural communities came together to take part in the Multicultural Cup, an Australian rules football lightning tournament organised by Aussie Rules International.
After a hiatus of four years, the tournament is back in 2010, renamed the Harmony Cup, featuring some new sides and planned for March 21st. Teams from the Greek, Italian and Lebanese communities are back onboard, along with Team Africa and Team Asia from the 2008 International Cup. Also planning to attend with a few players with International Cup are India, and newcomers Indonesia and Albania.
Team Indonesia - branding themselves the "Indo Footy Stars" - are being coordinated by Fawwaz Sungkar, who took some time to talk with WFN about the team's preparations.