Australia has recently seen a surge in African migration, and no doubt footy administrators will be keen to see some of these new arrivals embracing Australia's national football code. One such potential recruit is Mayong Akoon, a 15 year old Sudanese boy who started playing footy in the school yard 4 years ago with friends and has now been picked up by the Calder Cannons in Victoria's elite under 18 competition.
Although it has its problems, South Africa is a wonderful place to visit - the spectacular high veldt, the wildlife, the people and culture of the Rainbow Nation, as they call themselves (a rainbow of different colours and cultures). But there is something more that can be gained than just the usual tourist experiences. Getting close to the people and really feeling the warmth of their welcome is something that can seem out of reach - but footy can get you there.
Sport often generates great stories of people rising above adversity. This is one such story, following the journey of a young South African from a dead-end path on the streets of Itsoseng to a scholarship in the South Australian Riverland and representing his country in Melbourne at the Australian Football International Cup.
The recent World Footy Census clearly demonstrates that the big two countries in developing Aussie Rules outside of Australia are Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. This relates to their large junior programs, with thousands of children participating. Recent AFL South Africa announcements suggest that country remains on track to join those countries in the next few years.
For some reason St Kilda's tour of South Africa last year caused more attention on world Aussie Rules than just about any other event. Even the Pacific edition of Time Magazine has recently run a story.
For many of the Australian Convicts players who toured South Africa in February, the clinics for kids was one of the highlights. Although the matches were fun, and the sightseeing impressive, the personal contact made in less-visited places was something special. After the tour many of the players also went on to visit other places in southern Africa, such as Cape Town, Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe and Zambia) and Chobe National Park in Botswana. Here we talk about the clinics, and note that the previous stories on the matches have been updated with photos.
In recognition of greater involvement with the Australian Football League, Footy South Africa has been renamed AFL South Africa. It has also changed its website address. The term of current Executive Officer, Steven Harrison, also expires soon, and a replacement is sought as he wishes to return to Australia.
In the final match of the Convicts' successful tour of South Africa, the Aussies played the national side in Eldorado Park in Soweto, the famous town/suburb outside Johannesburg. The Australians came out all guns blazing, finishing the game in the first quarter, before the match settled into a more even tussle.
The second match of the Convicts tour has been played, on 3rd February, in the northern city of Mafikeng. The Australians encountered a tougher side than their first match, so had to lift their tempo, but again ran out comfortable winners.