On 1 July 1945, The Australian 7th Division, composed of the 18th, 21st and 25th Infantry Brigades, with support troops, made an amphibious landing, codenamed Operation Oboe Two, a few miles north of Balikpapan, on the island of Borneo. The landing had been preceded by heavy bombing and shelling by Australian air and naval forces. The Japanese were outnumbered and out gunned, but like the other battles of the Pacific War, many of them fought to the death. 230 Aussies paid the ultimate sacrifice
Taking the name Operation Yoboe, the Jakarta Bintangs, with their junior side the Jakarta Bulldogs in tow, journeyed to Balikpapan in Kalimantan to contest the Borneo Bears for the Borneo Cup on Anzac Day, April 25th, 2009.
As always, the day commenced with the solemnity of the Dawn Service, but the afternoon’s football was fast and furious and not without surprise.
Many countries have military forces in Afghanistan as part of the ongoing conflict, under the banner of the International Security Assistance Force.
Australian Sergeant Darrin Tapp is a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) in the Royal Australian Air Force in Afghanistan. "One of my roles here is to keep up morale and fitness levels for the 2000+ troops from 40 different nations around the world. One of these ways, and to bring a bit of Australian culture to HQ ISAF is to allow several nations to experience our great game of Australian Rules Football".
So Sergeant Tapp undertook the process of getting a tournament going in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, with the aim of linking it in with ANZAC Day, including inviting players to a service and to watch a telecast of the Collingwood versus Essendon clash from the MCG.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and is commemorated each year on April 25th by Australia and New Zealand to remember those who have served in their armed forces.
Anzac Day and Australian Football are inextricably linked , more so than any other of the football codes played in Australia. The immortal words “Up there Cazaly” were used to inspire diggers in the trenches in World War 1. The story of one of the game’s great icons, Ron Barassi begins with his father, himself a Melbourne player being killed in World War II and the young Ron being fostered by the legendary Norm Smith.
Another Melbourne player, “Bluey” Truscott, was an ace wartime pilot, twice awarded the DFC, and unfortunately killed in action. Melbourne’s best and fairest award is named after him. Hence it comes as no surprise that games on Anzac Day assume a special significance, the one certainty being that coaches in pre-match addresses will pepper their orations with ‘courage’ and ‘sacrifice’, and unnecessarily remind the boys to ‘remember what day this is'.
South East Asia, which has seen more than its fair share of Australian military action, sacrifice and courage over the years is no exception, and this years Anzac Day sees major ceremonies and football events in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Of particular interest the Malaysian Warriors are hosting the Singapore Wombats (a Changi Cup Clash) and an Australian Army team at Alice Smith School starting on Saturday at 1pm, playing for the Anzac Day Cup.
The Jakarta Bintangs and their junior team the Bulldogs are trekking to Balikpapan to take on the Borneo Bears in what promises to be a memorable Anzac Day of football and remembrance.
Starting with the solemnity of the Dawn Service and the laying of wreaths, the day will proceed to a 3-team carnival featuring the Bintangs, Bulldogs and Bears.
Borneo, a vast jungle covered island, was the scene of some of Australia’s most successful military operations (Operations Oboe – The battles of Tarakan, Balikpapan, Brunei and North Borneo) in World War Two, and the site of one of our greatest tragedies, The Sandakan Death March of which only 6 Australians survived from an initial group of 2000 Prisoners of War.
Last month the AFL website posted an article titled simply Footy in Siberia, telling the story of Dave Henry, an Australian who recently held Auskick clinics and organised an inter-school footy tournament in a number of schools somewhere in Siberia.
The clinics were part of a cultural exchange with over 1000 children taking part in the English component of the program and over 200 taking part in footy clinics. Henry showed the kids videos of Australian football action, then students participated in a number of clinics before forming school teams, playing on basketball courts due to the climactic conditions of the Siberian winter.
Henry performed the clinics solely on a volunteer basis, although he was given some material assistance by the AFL Queensland. Children each received stickers, hats and other give-aways, while schools received footballs and training equipment.
Reportedly the schools are keen to repeat the tournament, but somewhat oddly the article does not mention exactly in which towns the program took place, nor how to contact anyone involved. WFN will endeavour to find out more and get back to our readers on this!
A Bushfire Fundraiser jointly organized by the Vietnam Swan and Bali Geckoes in Saigon on Friday, 28th March saw USD 3,047.74, that's 4,336.57 Australian dollars, transferred from Saigon to the bushfire-hit areas of Victoria.
The money raised was made possible thanks to the very impressive sponsorship support in Vietnam – specifically, Jetstar, Caravelle Hotel, Sheraton Hotel, Hotel Equatorial, Kim Hai Butchery, RMIT University, JASPAS, Commonwealth Bank, Jim Beam and La Vie Water. Special thanks also must go to the Sydney Swans and Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League for donating signed jumpers for auction.
The Bushfire Fundraiser was naturally followed on the Saturday by a Bushfire Match between the Vietnam Swans Vs Bali Geckos with the Geckoes triumphing 17.6.108 to 13.11.89. A full report can be found on VietnamSwans.com.
So far, the global economic crises have had a minimal effect on the clubs, with most reporting reasonable numbers at training, and also being able to maintain the all-important levels of sponsorship.
The next six months are going to be packed with football action, kicking off with a number of ANZAC Day matches. Further highlights include a number of regional cup tournaments in the Philippines and Thailand, the Crikey Cup between Bali and East Timor to be played in Darwin, the open and masters Bali 9s and the annual Asian Championships, this year to be held in Kuala Lumpur.
There are Australian Rules Football Clubs throughout Asia and the newest of these clubs is the Timor-Leste Crocs. In Darwin on June 13th this year, the Crocs will go up against Asian footy veterans the Bali Geckos for the first time in the inaugural ‘Crikey Cup’, as a curtain-raiser to the AFL Round 12 match between the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide at TIO Stadium.
The idea for the Crikey Cup came from Steve Irwin’s connection with East Timor and its sacred symbol, the crocodile or ‘grandfather’. In 2000 Steve Irwin led a team from Australia Zoo, with the Australian Defence Force and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, to rescue two injured crocodiles from a cramped and destroyed cage in Dili, the capital.
The Japan AFL Top League will this year kick off with seven sides, with the Nagoya Redbacks joining the current member clubs from Osaka and Tokyo. The season will feature seven home and away rounds, with teams playing all other sides once.
The first round will see Australian-based club the Tokyo Goannas travel to Nagoya on Saturday April 25th. The Redbacks were undefeated at home in their career in the Nippon AFL, as well as in the recent challenge series against the Osaka Dingoes, and will be keen to keep their perfect record intact.
Back in Tokyo, university clubs Komazawa Magpies and the Tokyo Leopards host the visiting Osaka Dingoes and university graduates Eastern Hawks respectively.
Also on the schedule for this season is the annual international Narita Cup, a possible Goannas vs Japan All Stars match in July, and a road trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the Asian Championships in early September.
The season will wrap up in November, with semi-finals to be held on November 8th and the Grand Final on November 22nd.
Many clubs in Asia have close affiliations with football clubs in Victoria and many have been moved by the tragic events of the past few weeks. The Bali Geckos Australian Rules Football Club have responded to the recent horrific bushfires that wreaked havoc on the state of Victoria by donating to an Australian Rules football league in the heart of the affected areas. The Geckos will donate US$500 to the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League, which includes the townships of Kinglake and Marysville, both of which were basically wiped out by the fires.