Whereas once the Asia region was seen by the international footy community as being a bunch of expats having a kick in the park, it is now gaining recognition as an area of real growth potential for the sport.
Editor: Thanks to regular reader Sean for this report on Asian footy in Australian media.
This Saturday the 26th of August, over 200 Aussie Rules Footballers lace up their boots and take to the Jakarta Bintangs' home ground in Ciburbur to compete in the 2006 ANZ Asian Australian Football Championships. Despite the withdrawal of teams from Shanghai and the Philippines, this year's tournament attended by the Hong Kong Dragons, Japan Goannas, Thailand Tigers, Malaysian Warriors, Singapore Wombats, Bali Geckos and, of course, the Jakarta Bintangs promises to be one of the closest fought yet. In anticipation, we take a quick look at the competing teams.
Steve Harris, CEO of the AFL's Melbourne Demons, has announced that the club's planned tour of China, set for later this year had been cancelled. Hopefully this proves only a minor setback for the sport's development in China, with the club remaining committed to developing football in the third largest and most populous country in the world and still planning to play an exhibition match against the Geelong Cats in Tianjin during 2007.
In other news, Footy's ambassador to China Tom Mattessi was interviewed on Australia's SBS Radio. Mattessi was quizzed about the locals' grasp of the game and gave an insight into the inroads football has made in China.
The Japan Samurai have completed their four-match 2006 tour to Australia, with their final match played on Sunday August 13 against Melbourne Vietnam at Windy Hill, spiritual home of the AFL's Essendon Bombers.
As has been the norm on recent tours, the Japanese brought a developmental side on tour, featuring players they hope could step up to IC standard in time for 2008. The Samurai lost to Howlong in their first match, were defeated by Box Hill North Superrules in their second, hung on to defeat Box Hill North in a nail-biter, then were soundly beaten by Melbourne Vietnam.
Pictures from the Japan-Vietnam match follow, full match reports and scores will appear in the next few days.
The Japanese national Aussie Rules side, the Samurais, are touring Australia from the 4th to the 14th of August. The team will compete against amateur Australia sides Howlong, Box Hill North, Box Hill Super Rules and their final match against Melbourne Vietnam.
The weekend of June 10th 2006 found more Asian locals than usual startled by the spectacle of International Aussie Rules in full flight in their backyards as the Asian Footy calendar heats up in the lead-up to the big one - the Asian Championships 06.
Football took another step forward in Pakistan recently with the Swat Continental Hotel in Mingora, playing host to the 'Seminar for the development of Australian Rules football in Pakistan' (WFN first reported activity in the region in the article College tournament planned for North-West Pakistan).
The Japan AFL held its annual two-day Australian Rules Football Carnival, the International Narita Cup, over the previous weekend, June 10 and 11 2006. Originally only contested by Japanese based teams, a rapid growth in the competition followed the 2001 inclusion of Australian VAFA team, Box Hill North. Box Hill North return again in 2006 hoping to avenge their 2005 grand final loss to the Japanese national squad, the Samurais, who have been forced to compete without star players Michito Sakaki and Tsuyoshi Kase, both trying their luck in Australia after training pre-season with AFL club, Essendon.
The Melbourne Football Club and Melbourne City Council have made the headlines a few times in the last six months with their program to export Australian rules football to China via the sister-city relationship between Melbourne and Tianjin. Early this year Tom Mattessi was named as the first 'Ambassador' of footy to leave for China as part of the sister-city deal - WFN caught up with him to talk about progress so far, the immediate start-up plans and where the project could lead.