In perhaps one of the most surprising results of the international football year Chile's Los Santos (The Saints) have defeated the touring Convicts side in Santiago, inflicting possibly only their second loss (the first in 2007 to the South African national side in Soweto).
It's difficult to gauge the standard of play in South America given that there are few clubs and until now no cross-over matches against teams from other continents. And although the Convicts is a tourist group of Australian footballers which changes every year, they normally provide a good contest that is more than enough to defeat the locals. Of course the calibre of any particular tour party is unknown and these matches are friendlies so you can't be sure how determined to win each team was, and the South Americans appeared to have some expat-Aussie assistance, but still, it was obviously a fine victory for the locals and should provide them with confidence and motivation to keep growing the game moving forward.
The Convicts are back on tour again, departing Australia on Tuesday 19th October heading to South America for the first time. The Convicts concept involves bringing together a group of Australian footballers keen to play some footy overseas while paying their way to have a holiday as well.
The tour involves three matches: in Chile against the Santiago Saints, in Argentina and finally in Sao Paulo in Brasil. worldfootynews.com caught up with Adrian Barraza who is involved with Aussie Rules in Chile, to ask him how the year has gone so far and what impact the Convicts tour might have.
Player agent Peter Jess has conducted the first AFL talent camp in Buenos Aires, as previewed in Search for talent in Argentina. A video from Argentine news site La Nacion appears below.
worldfootynews.com also caught up with Peter Jess (see below) and was keen to ensure that local footy organisers in Argentina and Chile made contact with him. That has happened and hopefully will be the start of a good working relationship that might help push Aussie Rules forward in South America. Jess has confirmed that two exciting young talents have been selected to head to Australia to compete in the World XVIII in the NAB AFL Under 16s.
Talent scouts have headed to Buenos Aires in search of the next wave of AFL talent.
Peter Jess, well known for his involvement in recruiting Irish players, is heading the push. Greg Miller (former Richmond football manager) is the primary talent identifying agent, Robert Forster-Knight is in charge of athletic assessment, and in South America there is Leandro Zarco and Mario Cabellero. The West Coast Eagles' Steve Woodhouse is also expected to be present.
The plan is to target 16 to 18 year old players from soccer, Rugby and basketball, obviously those who don't get the opportunities/contracts they were seeing in those sports. Initially on offer is the chance for two players to "be selected to play in the Rest Of The World team in this years AFL National Underage Talent Championship", i.e. to join the World XVIII in July. The group will cover all expenses including 2 weeks preparatory training.
No you didn't read that wrong, South America. While the AFL club the West Coast Eagles have been involved in footy development in the African nation of South Africa, it is now the South American continent that is drawing their attention.
Eagles Chief Trevor Nisbett told www.foxsports.com.au "There seems to be a lot of talented athletes coming out of there and most of them are obviously playing soccer and rugby," he said. "If we are looking at other players, why not look there. A lot of the guys over there are super well-built and are super athletes. From our point of view it's certainly worth looking at."
The Eagles have linked up with high profile player agent Peter Jess to set up assessment camps. Of the South Americans Jess said "because of the enormous cultural differences he expected South Americans to adapt more quickly to Aussie rules than South Africans. I have outlined to a couple of the club the benefit of South America as a talent pool compared to Ireland," he said.
worldfootynews.com recently fielded a query from an Australian Football organiser in Chile, noting that South Americans have no access to the AFL on TV, neither free to air or cable. The AFL has most other areas covered to some degree, as shown by their Broadcast Partners list and their International viewing guide (click on International).
We asked the AFL if they were conscious of the South American blackspot. Patrick Keane, Media Relations Manager, replied:
"Getting some form of regular coverage of our game into South America is the next step for our broadcast department. I don’t expect we will see anything before this year’s Grand Final but it is on our agenda and it is something we hope to achieve for the 2009 off-season. However, I agree it is a hole for us and it’s not something we’ve been able to get done to this point".
So hopefully a broadcast partner can be found in time for the 2010 season.
A beautiful sunny day on Saturday 20th June in Rio de Janeiro, with a backdrop of Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer and a few curious local onlookers, saw the first ever Australian football match in Brazil.
Up against the Santiago Saints from Chile was the region's newest team, the Brazil Carnaval. At stake was the inaugural Copa Cabana with the winner entitled to claim South American supremacy.
Australian Trade Commissioner for Brazil, Greg Wallis, is putting together the first Brazilian Aussie Rules team for the match against the Santiago Saints coming up next weekend.
When the Carnaval - Brazil's first Australian Rules team - take the pitch against Santiago on June 20, they'll be wearing a jumper designed by a cartoonist from the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper and include players from across six states of Brazil. The squad currently consists mainly of Australian expats, although there will be at least one local.
This has made for a challenge in getting the team together, as Wallis tells us, "Brazil is so big that players are from all over the country, not just Rio and Sao Paulo, so logistics is difficult. But more than that, there are actually very few Australians here. I've probably contacted most of them for this game. Its not like a US or European city where you might have thousands of ex-pat Aussies - here you can count them on one hand in most cities."
Regarding the future of the game in Brazil, Wallis says "The first game is really just a bit of fun for the guys here, but if it goes okay then who knows - could develop into something bigger."
"It would be a big step from this game against Chile to so some sort of local competition... Soccer is so dominant here that it would be a tough job to convince locals to start playing in the absence of a visible and continuous local competition."
"So I think that for the foreseeable future we'll just play these one off games when we can and have a bit of fun. But as long as I'm here I'm more than happy to be involved and if we really see a bigger interest then I'll be the first to help make a local competition happen."
Los Santos de Santiago, Chile's first Australian rules football club, will head to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on Saturday June 20th for a match against a team called the "Carnaval", drawn from expat Aussies and locals in Rio and São Paolo.
The Carnaval will be the first-ever Brazilian team to take the pitch. Rob Spurr from Los Santos tells us the game was conceived at a business dinner last November in Sao Paulo, where he met with Australian Trade Commissioner for Brazil, Greg Wallis. Wallis has since taken the steps required to pull a team together from across Brazil, as well as securing a ground and sponsors.
Spurr also mentions the Santiago club is going from strength to strength, with the Saints setting themselves the goal of having a Chilean team at the IC11 in Melbourne. "We had 29 to our first training for 2009 in April, including 19 Chileans. Last week we held our first intra club test match - Chile v Anzacs whereby the Chilean side played as a national team for the first team in front of about 100 spectators."
"Whilst the Anzacs were victorious on the day, the Chilean side were competitive and have the basis of a decent side to
"Our committee hopes to kick off a minor league format by later this year and we are still shooting to have the Chilean national team at the 2011 International Cup in Melbourne."
Spurr also confirmed Los Santos are planning to return to Argentina for another tour match this year, and are hopeful that the Rio match should see a side from Brazil also make the trip down to Buenos Aires.
Anyone interested in footy in Chile can contact the Santiago Saints via their Facebook group.