World Footy News recently had the opportunity to chat with one of the co-founders of AFL Zimbabwe, the latest country in Africa to rise to the challenge of creating an Australian Football team. Along with a growing team of committed lovers of the game from as far afield as Sweden, the USA and Australia, the team is slowly breaking down the barriers.
The short journey to date has seen a series of coincidental and fortuitous meetings of like-minded people bringing their talents and passions together. Here is their story to date.
Trystan Peckover arrived in Zimbabwe as a diplomat at the Australian Embassy. Soon after he met Ronan Wordsworth (another Australian) who was in Zimbabwe accompanying his partner who works for the UN. Both Trystan and Ronan had played AFL for the London Swans in the AFL London league, but at different times. A useful coincidence. Trystan had also since played for the Paris Cocks prior to moving to ZImbabwe.
The following story is from the point of view of two young men in South Africa. It is not the story of AFL South Africa, nor is it necessarily true of others across the nation. It is following on from their own personal journeys, documented previously on World Footy News.
Last week’s AFL Drafts unearthed a huge new pool of talent, but unlike previous seasons was light-on for international players or players of multicultural journeys. One exception to that, taken in the draft on Thursday evening, was Bigoa Nyuon – snared by Richmond from under the Brisbane Lions’ nose at pick 54.
In an inspirational tale sharing the same basic plot lines as many other players from African countries now playing (or have played) in the AFL, Biggie, as he is known, was born in Nairobi, Kenya, after his family fled war-torn South Sudan. He lost his father in the fighting and his brave mother Mary managed to get as many of the divided family to Australia as possible. Some were in Kenya, some in Ethiopia, all were refugees.
The last few rounds of the AFL season ushered in many new talents across many clubs as they blooded players that either needed another look, or needed the senior AFL experience to prosper into the future. Hawthorn and Essendon were two clubs that tired this, but in their cases they were giving the football world a glimpse into the next phase of African nation footballers.
Round 21 saw Hawthorn debut their exciting youngster, Changkuoth Jiath. His first game, played in Canberra complete with snowfall, saw the highly athletic Jiath galloping all over the field and picking up a handy 11 possessions, five of which were contested. It was a confident start to a career in the big league.
It is wrong to say that the influx of players from African countries is an “experiment” in the same way that the influx of Irish is sometimes referred to as the “Irish Experiment”. It certainly isn’t. The increase in players of African descent is a result of Australian Rules football embracing the changing nature of our population and more players with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds will continue to grow.
That said, it is very interesting to see what is occurring with players in the AFL/VFL environment who come from Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and other African nations. For the purpose of this story, players who were born in Australia but parents were born in their African country of origin are included – but not an exhaustive list.
There is s small but growing thread of evidence to say that players from African nations could become the archetypal ruckman of the future. Here is some proof.
When Majak Daw was rookie-listed by North Melbourne back in 2010, he kicked open the door for other players from African nation backgrounds to follow. Born in Khartoum, Sudan and a refugee to Egypt before travelling with his family to Australia, Majak became the first AFL player of Sudanese origin.
In his wake, others like Aliir Aliir (Kenya to Sydney Swans) and Mabior Chol (South Sudan to Richmond) play senior AFL football now. Others have been and gone, and some still wait in the wings – other players of African nation descent want to follow. However, all owe a debt of gratitude to Majak Daw the trailblazer.
This is what makes his accident last December so profound. When emergency services rescued Majak from the base of the Bolte Bridge in Melbourne, with a broken pelvis and hip, it seemed his playing days may be over – at least at the elite level.
The following article from Kavisha Di Pietro on the AFL Players website www.aflplayers.com.au explores the journey of another young Sudanese footballer making his way onto an AFL list and hoping to emulate the deeds of Aliir Aliir and Majak Daw.
Western Bulldogs draftee Buku Khamis’ memories of his childhood in South Sudan are hazy.
He can recall how the sand would burn his feet as he played outside in the heat but he doesn’t remember much more from back home.
The 18-year-old was only six when he migrated to Australia with his parents and siblings.
His journey across the globe would be his first time on a plane.
“I don’t remember too much from living there but I do remember coming on the plane to Australia not knowing where we were going or what was going on,” he told AFLPlayers.com.au during his first AFL pre-season.
In a massive coup for AFL Middle East, the AFL club Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWS) have agreed to work together to help develop the Middle East’s competition. The following statement from AFL Middle East Operations manager, James Larkin, details the arrangement.
Statement GWS Giants Relationship
Introduction: On the morning of December 21st, the AFL Middle East (AFLME) announced it had come to an arrangement whereby it would develop a relationship with the AFL club – Greater Western Sydney Giants. This relationship was sought as a means to help expand Australian Football in the greater Middle East region at all levels including Auskick.
The opening round of the new 2018/19 AFL Middle East season got underway yesterday in Dubai with two tight matches which produced two significant results. The Dubai Dingoes came out snarling against the Abu Dhabi Falcons, whilst the Dubai Dragons won a thriller against the Multiplex Bulls.
In the opening match on a hot morning at the Sevens Stadium in Dubai, the Dubai Dingoes got their bark back and put a serious bite on the Falcons. In a tight opening half, it was the Falcons getting their noses in front to go to the main break with a seven point lead.
The Dingoes came back out after the break with renewed spirit – conscious that their new season needed a positive start – and rammed home eight goals to five after half time to win the game by ten points. It wasn’t the start the Falcons were looking for. After the promise of last year they needed a good start to the season. However, the Dingoes would be delighted with the win after a tough season in 2017/18. Already they are in a position to challenge for finals later in the season if they can snare another couple of wins.
In a wonderful example of the power of our game across the world, the Essendon Football Club's theme song "See The Bombers Fly Up" has been updated and rearranged by Ugandan artist, Coopy Bly. Below is the stunning result - a stirring rendition of a song well known across Australian Rules football communities.