The People's Republic of China, home to the 2008 Olympics and a population of over 1.3 billion (that's around 60 Chinese for every one Australian). They are dominating the Summer Games, as expected, but in Australian football they are not so fancied. Making their international debut at the AFL International Cup, worldfootynews.com spoke to coach Darryl Hoffman about what we might expect to see from the Red Demons.
US Revolution Coach Rob Oliver today confirmed squad changes to the one originally selected earlier in the year. Out of the squad are James Brunmeier, JJ Cisneros, Mike Levalley and Mike Busse who are all injured, and Jarrod Brunmeier who is unavailable due to other commitments. “We will miss these players and thank them for their efforts over the past years as valuable and enthusiastic members of the Revolution squad. We wish them well in their recoveries and hope that they will get the chance to represent the USA again.” It is of course inevitable when choosing a large squad so far out that some changes will have to be made due to injury in a serious contact sport. We believe that James Brunmeier was injured quite badly while playing football in Western Australia, and was only a slight chance to see any football at the end of the season.
Those out of the squad have been replaced by Josh Loring and Jeff Persson from the alternates list plus former Revolution representatives from the 2002 International Cup BJ Gambaro, Jay Mueller and Jason Becker (Gambaro and Mueller also played in the 2005 IC) whose experience will help to cover the losses from the squad. Oliver was upbeat about the inclusions adding “we are a team and this gives the opportunity to players picked as alternates to come into the team and grab their chance.”
The official squad named by the Samoan Kangaroos for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup includes their champion and captain from 2005, Fia Tootoo. He was named best player at the last Cup, with PNG's Navu Maha. There was some concern about Tootoo's availability, but it looks like the big fella will play. Fia is currently playing for Nyora in the Victorian EDFL. Reports suggest he has been a dominant player at centre halfback. If he is to play for both Samoa and Nyora he'll have an amazing schedule, as their league's finals overlap with the International Cup - though only if both his sides make their Grand Finals would there be a direct clash. Seeing Tootoo named will boost Samoa's chances enormously, but with a large 40-man squad, one wonders whether all players will be available for all matches. In fact the Roos' cause has been hurt by the ineligibility of around ten players they had hoped could play but who don't meet the criteria.
Here's the final squad named for the US Revolution. However we believe two key players, the Brunmeier brothers, will be absent, which could be a major setback for the American plans to break-through for their first grand final appearance. Star forward James Brunmeier is believed to be injured.
The first-ever Sweden Elks IC campaign has drawn its squad from far and wide. All regions of Swedish footy - Stockholm, Karlstad, Gothenburg, Dalarna and Scania - are represented, with one player from the world's most northerly footy club, the Svärdsjö Crows.
The squad has some experienced faces, with captain Andreas Svensson having represented Denmark at the 2002 IC, in the days when Sweden only had one club, the Helsingborg Saints in the DAFL. The Elks also have some size on their side, with Mats Wurmbach from Stockholm club the Solna Axemen standing 208cm tall - almost 6 foot 10 in the old scale.
The three Stockholm sides (Solna, Bromma and Södermalm) have 9 representatives between them, as do the three Scanian sides (Landskrona, Helsingborg and Port Malmö). The Gothenburg Berserkers supply 5, Karlstad 3, and the Dalarna clubs (Falun and Svärdsjö) 2.
The Israel-Palestine Peace Team has been named, with 26 players headed for Australia. With different faiths and different languages, getting this side together was a daunting task. They now face further great hurdles - experienced opponents and understanding coach Robert DiPierdomenico (fortunately co-coached by Simon Jacobs). Some promising matches against expat-Aussies in Israel suggest this side will be tougher to beat than first expected, but a lack of experience will hurt and few tall players could be a problem if conditions are fine.
Papua New Guinea born AFL champion Mal Michael, a triple premiership player with the Brisbane Lions, has officially announced his retirement from his third and final club, Essendon (he started his career with Collingwood). Mal is on the record many times as wanting to return to PNG to help his country, as well as having an interest in representing the Mosquitoes in football.
More on his retirement and future plans later, but for now it was interesting to note that Australian media reported that Mal might even wish to represent PNG in next week's International Cup. Three issues would have to be addressed - would he be selected, is he eligible (and if not, would an exemption be granted) and is it too late given the deadline for final squads has passed?
Based on comments from AFLPNG staff in the past, Michael probably would be selected, given the big boost it would give to both the team (not least in the much needed height department) and exposure of the sport in PNG. However based on the tournament rules he would appear to be ineligible (having grown up and learnt the game in Australia) and as such would require an exemption. But the issue that seals his fate in the negative is that squads have indeed been finalised, lodged and the deadline passed. worldfootynews.com checked with AFL International Coordinator Josh Vanderloo, who confirmed that it is indeed too late.
As one of five debutantes at the IC 2008, Finland will be eager to make a strong first appearance. The Icebreakers reported to us previously that they may struggle for depth unless they can find a few extras for the list, only naming a 23-man squad to the Cup at this point. No doubt they'd love to hear from anyone else who might qualify.
The team on paper has a broad range of sizes, with their ruckman Jalmari Viima standing 205cm tall. All three of the Finnish domestic teams are represented, with 9 each from the Helsinki Heatseekers and Salo Juggernauts and 5 from the Espoo Roos.
While the team is almost entirely Finnish born-and-bred, the squad will include Irishmen Keith Byrne and Sean Doherty and Colombian Fernando Leon (possibly the first South American at the IC), who learnt the game in the Finnish domestic league.
The date is September 24, 2005, and Sydney defender Leo Barry is about to make an impression like very few before him. Knowing there isn’t much time left with the clock reading 32 minutes 34 seconds in the final quarter of the Grand Final, and with his team trailing by 4 points, West Coast Eagles ruckman Dean Cox has just marked and kicked the ball deep inside his team’s forward line.
A huge pack builds as 91,898 people sit on the edge of their seats awaiting the outcome. Leo Barry, eyes only for the ball, charges in from the side and plucks a courageous mark. No sooner has he got to his feet and the siren has sounded, giving the Sydney Swans their first Premiership since 1933. Barry is mobbed by teammates and euphoria breaks out across the Melbourne Cricket Ground and throughout the city of Sydney.
Fast forward to January 2006, and Barry and his Premiership winning teammates are in Los Angeles, California to play an exhibition match against the North Melbourne Kangaroos, as part of the Australia Day celebrations. Little does Leo know he is about to make another lasting impression.
Toronto Eagles footballer George Dimacakos has been invited to train with the Swans while they are in LA, having been approached by former Sydney forward Tony Morwood during the banquet celebrating the 2005 International Cup teams. Growing up in Canada, and playing for the Eagles of the Ontario Australian Football League, it was only natural that Dimacakos would be a West Coast Eagles supporter. His favourite team had just lost that heart-breaker four months earlier, and now, here he was running around on the same field as the team that won that memorable game. For a young man who had only ever been to four AFL matches from his one trip to Australia, he could be forgiven for being slightly nervous and over-awed.
While PNG and New Zealand are firm favorites to hoist the cup in early September, with the US and Ireland hot at their heels, a few punters are saying a dark horse has emerged.
The Great Britain Bulldogs finished middle-of-the-table at the first two International Cups, though the past year has seen some impressive performances, including impressive victories over IC02 champs Ireland, a team who for a long time reigned supreme as the best side in the northern hemisphere.
With a new-look youthful team from across England and Wales, the Bulldogs are coming to the Cup to win. In the words of coach Charlie Kielty, "No point travelling 12000 miles just to participate. We are quietly confident."
The Denmark Vikings have a squad ranging from veterans such as captain Pall Finnson and Danish footy stalwart Erik Krolmark to youth developed over the past decade in the Farum junior program.
All four of the Danish clubs in the DAFL premier league (the other two premier league clubs, Helsingborg and Port Malmö, are in Sweden) are represented, with the Farum Cats supplying 13 players, the North Copenhagen Barracudas 7, the Jutland Shinboners 5 and the Copenhagen Crocodiles 1.