The ambitious plan to bring a combined Israeli-Palestinian team to the 2008 Australian Football International Cup in Victoria appears to be well under way. The concept is based on a similar team that has toured the world playing soccer, but has the added complexity that for the players, Aussie Rules is a completely foreign game.
Athletes with strong soccer and basketball backgrounds have been targeted, and 75 are now in training, from which 35 to 40 will be selected to represent Israel-Palestine. The side will compete in the second division of the Cup. Beyond the challenges of a foreign game, historical conflict and the need to have the rules translated into Hebrew and Arabic, the players have also faced a lockdown on the West Bank when US President George Bush visited the area, and a massive snowstorm that prevented training in Jerusalem.
You can read more about the newest team to hit world footy in Making the impossible possible, by Chelsea Roffey, on the AFL website. In good news for footy, Roffey, from Media Giants, will be working with the AFL to expand coverage of international Australian Football leading up to, and through, the International Cup. As per 2005, worldfootynews.com will also be providing material to the AFL, and plans are under way between the three groups to pool resources to make the third Cup the best covered yet.
In another small but promising step for the promotion of this year's International Cup, Andrew Sawitsch (working for the Melbourne Demons and Melbourne City Council) has released a Chinese language flyer for the tournament, based on one produced by the AFL. So where does Sawitsch see it being used? "We'll use it for our players, supporters and government groups over here (in China) to give them a bit of background on the tournament. Melbourne Football Club and (the) AFL Multicultural Department can hopefully circulate it around as well from now until August". One would hope to at least see them around Chinatown in Melbourne.
Hopefully a poster campaign around Melbourne will be included in the event promotion, as they seem to be quite effective at raising interest. If the AFL doesn't put out such posters, maybe international footy fans in Victoria will take up the task themselves?
Sawitsch has recently returned to Australia to attend the AFL coaching conference on the Gold Coast, where he told media about two Chinese players that will join the Melbourne Demons for their Community Camp in Canberra.
"The two guys I’m bringing out to Melbourne – one is a child prodigy in martial arts but there really isn’t a career in that, and the other is soccer goalkeeper, where there aren’t that many opportunities in China unless you are really good," Sawitsch said.
The AFL has updated their International Cup page, with basic details of the tournament (mostly as previously reported here). In 2005 the Cup featured on their website through a mixture of stories from worldfootynews.com and other sources. Let's hope the coverage in 2008 surpasses those levels, but with the AFL finals on, it will be interesting to see how much front page space is dedicated to the tournament. Still, the amount of attention given to international footy in 2007 has been excellent, which augers well for the years ahead.
Back in March of this year WFN looked at a wide list of countries that may consider sending their team to the 2008 Australian Football International Cup (see 2008 International Cup - country attendance likelihood list). Eight months later, and much less than a year before the tournament, we listed the teams the AFL say have expressed an interest (see IC 2008 - Hands up for Division 1?). We've spoke to representatives from most of those nations to see whether they are expecting to get Down Under for international footy's premier event. If all the countries we rate as moderate or better make the journey, the Cup will feature a major jump in numbers from past years, going from 11 (2002) and 10 (2005) to 16 in 2008, giving the AFL the number of nations they are hoping for to give balanced divisions. That's not including possible teams based on recent ethnic migrant groups in Melbourne, whichever division they end up in.
Melbourne's The Age newspaper reported this morning that business leaders, representatives of the AFL and board members of AFL clubs would meet tonight to pledge funds to make the Peres Peace Team a reality for next year's International Cup.
Although footy has had an on-again off-again presence in Israel for well over a decade, the team would require training young athletes from scratch, with only 9 months to have a team ready for the cup. Reportedly, the side will be based around soccer players, with expat Australians coaching in Israel and the AFL providing clinics when the team arrives in Melbourne.
Support from the Melbourne end looks promising, with the Melbourne Jewish community having a long history of support for Aussie Rules, as has more recently the Melbourne Arabic-speaking community.
Further to our story Audio, photos and stories from Warrnambool launch, the complete audio of the media conference for the Warrnambool launch of the 2008 Australian Football International Cup is listed below in mp3 format. We're also looking to provide a podcast link (not available at time of writing).
Some of the interesting parts of the session included Kevin Sheedy pushing for India's inclusion, rating the US Nationals as approximately D grade amateurs in Melbourne (readers should make no mistake, that's still a good standard of footy), and suggesting that in ten years a full round of premiership points matches could be played outside of Australia. He also discussed the Victoria versus Dream Team match, and a nice story about Essendon's Japanese guests. David Matthews also further articulated a message he has delivered before, that the AFL should steadily increase its game development commitment internationally. WFN's Troy Thompson also asked a leading question about how much the AFL will promote the forthcoming tournament.
With the IC 2008 now less than a year away, 18 international teams are in active discussion with the AFL about taking part, with a further 3 Melbourne-based migrant community teams under consideration.
One of the big changes in the IC 2008 will be the division of the competition into "Premier" and "Developmental" divisions, pitting the more established sides against each other, while giving the newer teams on the block a fairer playing field.
While nothing is yet finalised, discussion between the AFL and international leagues is slowly creating a likely picture of who'll end up in which division.
Following on from our story on the AFL's press conference for the International Cup (see Warrnambool to co-host 2008 International Cup), in this story we present photos and audio from the day, and links to some of the local media coverage. The AFL's General Manager of Game Development David Matthews briefs journalists, the Mayor has a chat and Kevin Sheedy spruiks for the internationalising of footy. Many thanks to WFN reporter Troy Thompson for making the six hour return journey for the press conference.
The AFL today announced that Warrnambool will join Melbourne as the host of the 2008 International Cup. The announcement was made by Kevin Sheedy (Ambassador for the sport's 150 year celebrations and ex-Essendon coach) and David Matthews (AFL Game Development) at Reid Oval, one of three venues that will be used for Warrnambool's matches (Walter and Mack ovals are the others). The decision to play some matches at a regional location is no doubt the result of a very successful trial at the 2005 tournament, where fellow Victorian country-town Wangaratta hosted one round of matches. Warrnambool is on the southwestern coast of Victoria (three hours from Melbourne) and has a population of a little over 30,000.
An updated fixture (including locations) was also revealed which we’ve included below. More news will follow in the next few days, including a current list of likely attendees, a proposed division breakdown and a review from World Footy News' representative at the launch, Troy Thompson.
The AFL's coordinator of the 2008 Australian Football International Cup has confirmed the dates for the third instalment of world footy's biggest tournament. Roger Berryman told WFN that the dates previously listed as possible have now been settled, with some minor changes. It looks like at least one match (prior to the Grand Final) may be a curtain raiser to an AFL match, but whether the Grand Final will be is subject to the AFL Finals schedule - not known until after Round 22 of the AFL season. Berryman also gave some further insight into the possible attendees and arrangements between those countries and AFL and VAFA clubs (more on that later).