Over the last decade Australian football has taken big strides in laying down some roots internationally. Many of those started off as tiny projects to use footy to bring some fun to poor communities; some such projects remain at that scale and whilst never likely to make big headlines are great initiatives as they are. One current program is being run by expat Aussie Simon Corcoran in a remote area of Peru.
worldfootynews.com had a chat to Simon about the people and the footy there and where his dreams would see it all go.
The Convicts' tour of South America continued on 23rd October with a match in Buenos Aires against Argentina's Eagles, who were captained by Martin Parsons. With both squads low on numbers and limited facilities available the match was played with soccer goals instead of footy posts.
After a hard fought match the visitors emerged with a 4-3 victory. Silsirado Diego (Argentina) was selected as the best player in the game.
Details have been slow to filter out of South America but the final match was scheduled against a Brazilian squad.
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.