While it may not be strange to find kids kicking a football in Ghana (a soccer powerhouse where the round ball game takes on an almost religious fanaticism) it would seem strange to see the Australian football being kicked around. At least in Dawhenya, a rural town just east of the Ghanian capital Accra, the local children are keen to try it.
The next major step in South Africa's rapidly unfolding football journey may well be led by the AFL clubs themselves. After the developmental South African youth team played their final tour match, in Perth last week, the AFL held a dinner at which they unveiled plans for powerhouse clubs West Coast, Fremantle and Collingwood to become heavily involved with fast-tracking the game in South Africa.
We recently reported on the first two matches of South Africa’s developmental squad played against the QANTAS Kickstart Indigenous Youth Team in Jabiru and Darwin. Here we present a more in-depth look at those games, including photos, and a wrap up of the third and final match.
The South African development squad again put in a solid showing against the QANTAS Kickstart Indigenous Youth Team last night at TIO Stadium in Darwin in front of a growing crowd heading in for the Essendon versus Indigenous All-Stars main event. The late game was telecast across Australia on ABC2, the second station of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation via its digital broadcasting. During the telecast South African coach Mtutu Hlomela was interviewed and the AFL's General Manager of National and International Development, David Matthews, also gave his thoughts on increasing assistance and the potential for one of Aussie Rules' most exciting development zones. Matthews also talks about the possible International Cup 2008 sides and the balance between International Rules and Australian Football.
The South African developmental footy squad touring Australia touched down in Darwin, Northern Territory last Sunday 4th February. After a busy Monday it was off to Jabiru to play their first game game of the tour, against the Indigenous Youth Squad. The visitors proved competitive in losing by 30 points and would be reasonably satisfied with their first hit-out. Two more matches are scheduled, one in Darwin and the other in Perth - full details follow.
The AFL Australian Institute of Sport youth tour to South Africa in April, discussed in our recent story South Africa target 28000 players by 2010, youth Test match confirmed, will feature the first fully representational juniors match between the two countries. The 2006 Indigenous tour saw an Aboriginal selection play two Australian Football matches against the South Africans and one International Rules game. The hybrid game has many supporters but also many who are less than keen to see the game played. The opinions of WFN writers undoubtedly varies, but I suspect all would agree that where Australian Football is an option it should be played. So when the forthcoming match was announced we were keen to check that the game will indeed be what we affectionately call footy. The response from AFL South Africa's CEO, Jean Verster: "Aussie Rules for sure". That will bring a smile to a lot of faces.
In two tremendous announcements for international footy, AFL South Africa are now mentioning the possibility of hundreds of thousands of players, and there is confirmation that an elite Australian under age side will play a full Test match against the Africans in April - as far as we know the first such Australian Football international featuring a true Australian representative side.
A possible exception has been brought to our attention - an invitational juniors match between Australia and PNG in Adelaide in 1977, as mentioned here). We've also been told by reader John Milton that there were age concessions, with the Aussies under 17s and PNG under 19s, with the taller Australians getting up in a close one. Similar concessions are likely this time around.
The AFL has confirmed that the 2007 "Once in a Dreamtime" game, to be played in Darwin between Essendon and an Aboriginal All-Stars side, will feature South Africa's under 19s taking on the Qantas AFL Indigenous Youth Team as the curtain-raiser.
As the AFL continues its push into South Africa, role models for budding young players can be an important factor. Obviously it will be much more significant when a player groomed in a local competition is drafted into the Australian Football League, but in the meantime AFL South Africa may be able to leverage the recent rookie listing of a young player born in their country.
The Australian Convicts, a side of amateur players from around Australia, will tour South Africa again for two weeks next February and March playing three games, one against the South African national team. The players will also hold juniors clinics with local children. "Mr Football" Ron Barassi has also recently come on board as patron of the Convicts, featuring in Melbourne daily newspaper the Herald Sun.