In this article we look at the remaining countries that have begun playing Australian Rules football. We've previously reviewed the regions of North America, Europe, Africa, Oceania and Asia. Here we'll see the beginnings of the game in the Middle East and South America.
Australian Rules Football has found it difficult to break into the Asian region. Although there are plenty of expatriate Aussies keen to spread the game, they have struggled to interest large numbers of locals, more so than in North America, Europe and Oceania. Japan and Indonesia are two possible exceptions. We look at their numbers, along with all the footy teams of Asia, in our latest in the World Footy Census 2004 series.
Plans are being made for AFL Hall of Famers John Platten, Doug Hawkins and Ron Barassi to go on a world tour in January 2006, covering Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and the Pacific Region.
While the project is still in the planning stages, the idea has been trialled as a successful fundraising venture for Australian Football in Papua New Guinea and organisers are hoping it can become a regular fixture for clubs and leagues around the world.
The Brian Clarke-led IAFC (disputed - see note below) have announced that they are to hold a 'Australian Football World Cup' in Melbourne in 2008. The IAFC have issued an announcement via a dedicated webpage, however as the Australian Football League is understood to be planning the third International Cup also to be held in Melbourne in 2008 it is as yet unclear what the political ramifications of this announcement will be.
The greatest growth in international Australian Rules Football in recent years has been in the island countries surrounding Australia. Their location makes this no surprise, but until the 1990s, there was no real sign of the developments to come. Now two strong countries have emerged, with New Zealand and Papua New Guinea numbers exploding, and several new nations have begun the struggle to establish the sport.
It was pleasing to see that international footy received some recognition in the Australian Football League's season review. Although small, it is another small step as the game's growth around the world receives more attention.
South Africa stands alone as a beacon for Aussie Rules in Africa (with the exception of some junior clinics in Kenya). If it can become a major sport in that country, there could easily be a natural spread to surrounding nations, as South Africa is the economic powerhouse of the continent, providing employment for hundreds of thousands of immigrants. World Footy News reviews last year's numbers in this third instalment of its 2004 census.
Greece have won the Australian Football Multicultural Cup for 2005, defeating traditional rivals Turkey by 14 points in the final. Eight sides, representing Melbourne's Croatian, Turkish, Greek, Vietnamese, Italian, Israeli, Lebanese and Aboriginal communities were on show, with the day held in great spirits in keeping with Harmony Day.
In good news for the many fans of Australian Rules Football outside Australia, several options for overseas fixtures are being considered for 2005 and 2006, with England, New Zealand, the US and United Arab Emirates all being mentioned.
World Footy News has often been criticised for its informal association with Brian Clarke's IAFC. Although we have argued that the only real linkage is the display of their logo and the volunteer work done by this author, the case has obviously not been made strongly enough. And clearly this author was sympathetic to their cause. However, it is our opinion that WFN has been held back by this perception. In this editorial we wish to make the clear distinction and in fact make it clear that even those loose ties have now been cut. I have thought long and hard about whether to air our reasons, but in fairness to all our supporters, and all the people I have lobbied on behalf of Brian Clarke, I feel they deserve an explanation of how this decision has come about over the lifetime of WFN.