The 2016 School Sport Australia tour of South Africa is underway with highly talented Australian school footballers taking their wares to towns and villages across South Africa as well as experiencing cultural, social and scenic delights as they mingle footy and travel.
Amid the excitement, the touring team will play in three matches against the South African Lions and possibly another team. The players will also be heavily involved in clinics with school kids across the Johannesburg-Pretoria-Potchefstroom triumvirate as well as later in the journey across Cape Town and Khayelitsha.
The itinerary is exciting, and for many of the players may forever be a highlight of their personal lives as well as footy career. But the opportunity for these players to work with AFL South Africa to grow the game across the nation might be the most valuable legacy of the journey.
In a remarkable AFL Rookie Draft held today, four players from Sudan made it on to the AFL lists of clubs for 2016. The AFL may never be in a better position to market the game in African countries after Gach Nyuon (Essendon), Rueben William (Brisbane) and Mabior Chol (Richmond) were added to club lists. Additionally, Majak Daw, arguably the highest profile Sudanese player so far, was re-rookied by North Melbourne as expected.
Essendon had been tracking the journey of Gach Nyuon (pictured left) for some time and it was little surprise that they called him as their first selection (fourth overall) this morning. Essendon has only recruit Matthew Leuenberger and young gun Joe Daniher that stand over 200 centimetres, so Nyuon will address the height issue, especially if a key ruckman is injured during the season. Nyuon is a raw talent but is super-exciting and highly athletic. His form with the Dandenong Stingrays in the TAC Cup saw him the premier ruckman of the competition and this continued for Vic Country and eventual All-Australian U18 selection.
The second season of the recently revamped South African national Australian Rules football competition concluded recently with the Gauteng Province based team, Warriors, defeating the Nyanga Blue Birds team from the Western Cape Province.
The new format commenced in 2014 and was considered a success as eight teams from across South Africa competed in a ten round format. There are two teams from each of four provinces – Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal and North West.
The Warriors and Blue Birds teams finished the home and away rounds in first and second place respectively, and met in the final which in the end was dominated by the Warriors on the scoreboard. Final scores saw Warriors 5 9 39 defeat the Nyanga Blue Birds 2 7 19.
Following in the wake of fellow AFL listed countrymen, Majak Daw at North Melbourne and Aliir Aliir at the Sydney Swans, two more Sudanese footballers have set their sights firmly on succeeding at the highest level. Their results at the recent AFL Draft Combine prove conclusively that they will give everything they have to give and more.
Mabior Chol and Gach Nyuon (pictured) are both very similar in many ways. Both were born in Sudan and both saw their families flee their home countries and spend time in camps elsewhere. Gach’s family spent time in refugee camps in both Kenya and Ethiopia before his journey brought him to Melbourne as a seven year old.
Mabior’s family also fled, via Egypt. Leaving the war in Sudan as a two year old, violence saw his family leave Egypt when he was eight for Brisbane.
North Melbourne’s young Sudanese ruckman, Majak Daw, has taken out the 2015 Grand Final Sprint, an event which has traditionally been a part of the half time entertainment since the late 1970’s. Whilst North Melbourne bowed out of the finals race last weekend, losing to West Coast, Daw has given the club something to cheer about.
After loping through the heats held earlier in the day, Majak Daw started the race well behind early leader, Charlie Cameron from the Adelaide Crows. But once the athletic and muscular Daw got his rhythm he raced past the leader and cruised home to an easy win.
Daw becomes the first Australian Rules footballer born overseas to win the event. Born in Sudan, his family fled with Majak in tow to escape the civil war in their country. After living for three years in Egypt, the family moved to Australia where Majak found his way to Australian Rules football and the Kangaroos.
Australian Rules football in South Africa took another monumental step towards nation-wide development with the recent involvement of a team from Soweto being included in a recent competition in nearby Potchefstroom to the south-west.
The urban area of Soweto (abbreviated from South West Townships) has a population of around 1.3 million and makes up one third of greater Johannesburg’s population. Soweto, part of the already football mad Gauteng Province has included residents such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
Now there is the opportunity for Australian Rules football to slowly take root in one of the most populous areas of South Africa, highlighted by the recent Australian Rules football carnival. It is hoped that this event is the starting point of a long journey of footy in Soweto.
The following story is a fascinating, in depth account by Sam Landsberger at the Herald Sun newspaper exploring the paths of four young African footballers. Sam starts with the story of Gach Nyuon (Sudan) before moving on to the stories of Maibor Chol (Sudan/Egypt), Patrick Taban (Uganda) and Rueben William (Kenya). They are amazing stories of courage, freedom and ultimately their journey to football.
This story adds further to the recent look at the journey of Sydney Swans player Aliir Aliir, drafted last year Sudan To Sydney Swans: Aliir Aliir’s Journey Continues and the success of North Melbourne footballer Majak Daw, selected again for a senior game last weekend.
Gach Nyuon’s long journey from Africa to potential AFL draftee
(Picture: Jay Town, Herald Sun)
Four boys from Sudanese families have trekked through war-torn countries and survived refugee camps before arriving in Australia and falling in love with footy.
One saw an attempted kidnapping of his baby brother and another has more than 70 siblings, owing to his assassinated father’s 12 wives.
Last year an historic football match took place in Kenya, with a team representing the host nation to play a visiting team from neighbouring Tanzania. The story from that initial match was published on World Footy News as Buffalo soldiers: Kenyans beat Tanzanians in historic match and followed the incredible work of Tom Purcell who after a huge effort brought together two East African nations to play an international Australian Rules football match in suburban Nairobi.
Now it is the turn of the Tanzanian team to host their own piece of history with an Australian Rules football match on the home soil. In a first for the game, Tanzania will become an Australian Rules football nation as our game spreads its tentacles farther and wider.
The following story by Conor Walsh for the AFL’s own website (www.afl.com ) looks at the upcoming match and further details the work of Tom Purcell and the work of the Zimele program.