This ANZAC weekend proved to be a blockbuster for Australian football in Asia, with international East Asia Australian Football League (EAAFL) matches played in two countries, and many domestic matches played across the continent.
The Vietnam Swans hosted the Jakarta Bintangs in Vung Tau, while the Singapore Wombats hosted both the Malaysia Warriors and Cambodian Eagles. There were important domestic ANZAC matches played in Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and Philippines.
The Swans were defeated by the Bintangs in a close match at the old Lord Mayor’s Oval in Vung Tau. The field is inside a greyhound racing track, but was the very same oval where Australian soldiers played footy during the Vietnam War. The significant event even attracted the presence of three Vietnam Veterans who had graced that very field in the 1960s.
Jakarta won the match 10.9 (69) to Vietnam’s 8.11 (59), marking a win for Jakarta’s first EAAFL match in front of over 500 spectators. This leaves Vietnam winless after their third EAAFL match.
On March 10 the Masala Football Club had it's first outing at Gosch's Paddock in Richmond. In their kit donated by the Richmond Football Club they took on Team Africa on a very hot day. While both sides were fairly well matched skill wise, the superior numbers of the Africans was a big advantage in the heat and they ran out winners by about ten goals.
With no MCG, Aami Stadium or even a Norwood Oval to call their own, AFL Japan's Top League play matches on rented rugby grounds and public parks as do most footy leagues and clubs outside Australia.
The amateur nature of the international footy community has most leagues and clubs playing and/or training on borrowed school or university sports grounds, public parks or any flat* (or not so flat) paddock or river bank they can find.
However, AFL Japan has taken an almost unprecedented step in international footy by opening its own office and shopfront in Tokyo. Opened at the start of 2013 the AFL Japan Office is where all the day-to-day business of AFL Japan takes place, and storage of merchandise and equipment.
Open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, the office is a physical presence for Australian Football fans in Japan where the public (curious or committed) can walk in and purchase a wide range of AFL Japan and/or Aussie Football merchandise eg. Guernseys, books, DVDs and “Sherrins” or have queries about Japan Footy or AFL answered.
The office is situated at 27-9-101 Denenchoufu-Honcho Oota-Ku, Tokyo. A short 3min walk from Numabe Station, Tokyo Tamagawa Line.
In our continuing series on the future of footy in Asia we look at what is probably the second biggest league in the Asian region, behind only Japan's TLeague (and perhaps the in-development East Asian AFL).
The Lantau Lizards have become the sixth team to enter the South China Australian Football League (SCAFL), joining already established teams in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou. Lantau is an island in Hong Kong, bringing the number of Hong Kong based teams in the league to four.
The Lantau Lizards, along with the Hong Kong Reds and Hong Kong Blues, play under the flag of the Hong Kong Dragons, which are the reigning Asian Champs, while the fourth team from Hong Kong, Hong Kong Gaelic, plays in the SCAFL independently. The Guangzhou Scorpions and Macau Lightning make up the remainder of the league.
The league is currently played weekly with Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong alternating between hosting entire rounds to make it easier to afford ground costs and umpires. The matches are played similar to the first round of the NAB Cup, with games having two 20-minute halves and each team playing two matches, totaling six matches for the day.
Here's a story that never made it into an article and has sat in my pile of drafts for almost six years now - reporting some early stirrings of footy in South Korea.
Although it became one of a long of clubs that had some impetus early on but ultimately never saw the light of day, I figure it's worth giving everyone a chance to read the story of the Kimchi Kangaroos - also known as the Seoul Crocodiles, as it was around 6 years ago!
Australian Trade Commissioner and Vice President of Australian Rules Football Association in India, Tom Calder, was special guest at the closing ceremony of the "Swarnim Khel Mahakumbh" in Ahmedabad, a mass scale sports carnival organized by the Gujarat state Government as a part of the program to celebrate 50 years of the formation of the West Indian state.
Participation at the event saw nearly 1.3 million participants of various ages competing in 24 different sports at 1,100 venues across the state. The event is the brainchild of Chief Minister Narendra Modi who has a strong pro-sports agenda and who declared in his speech that the carnival would become an annual event.
During his speech at the event Tom asked the Chief Minister to consider promoting the unique Australian sport in Gujarat as a way of increasing Australian-Gujarati sports links and presented an AFL India branded Sherrin to him on stage (pictured at left).
We've been discussing the future of footy in Asia and in particular calls to involve more locals. One proposal was a peak body to help promote and coordinate the game, including with more internationals and quotas to ensure most players are locals. The difficulty of getting that started is the cost of travel, something expats normally find more viable. As it turns out several Asian clubs have already committed to a league in 2013, inevitably to be expat dominated, but hopefully a basis on which to build deeper roots in their adopted countries.
The Vietnam Swans have put forward a proposal to the Asian footy community of an East Asia Australian Football League (EAAFL) in an effort to bring structure, uniformity and increased credibility to Asian football. The eventual objective is to be able to play a home and away series throughout the year, have a ladder and be able to state a premier at the end.
With clubs existing in Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, East Timor, Japan and Vietnam, the potential number of teams able to participate is considerably high. Teams of expatriates are generally better funded and would most likely make up the majority, but there is also reasonable growth of teams with local talent.
Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand earlier confirmed their participation for the 2013 season, and in late breaking news Jakarta (Indonesia) and Singapore have joined in the last week and and just in the last couple of days Laos became team number seven. More teams may follow suit in the coming weeks.
We continue our series on the Asian footy future with a piece that considers how to give players a pathway to international representation even if their own nation is not yet able to field its own fully local team.
The issue of the expat dominated Asian competitions comes to my mind every International Cup, mostly due to the absence of so many countries in Asia that are not represented. Japan have for a long time been involved in footy and have both expat dominated clubs and grass roots locals clubs (mostly dominated by Uni Students that they lose once they move on to employment) and have played in all International Cups. Then along came China and India who have both been able to put together national squads at the last two international cups (with some numerical support from Chinese and Indians in Australia). East Timor were the latest to join the competition in 2011.
But how to get more of the countries in Asia where footy is played involved? The obvious answer is to grow the game in the individual countries among the nationals of those countries. Ideally build up a healthy pool of individuals, pick your national team, raise the funds and the job is done. To my mind nothing beats grass roots, self sustaining community football clubs who can produce and provide their elite players to representative football.
For a variety of reasons it is clearly not that simple.
Over the last few years we've had numerous articles chronicling the rebirth of Australian football in India, but recently AFL India drew our attention to a great article by Glen Cullen on the Australia Unlimited website that very nicely put the whole journey together in one story. With permission we reproduce it below. Original article is here: It ain't cricket
One per cent of India’s population is roughly half Australia’s population. So a significant fan base could emerge from converting a small percentage of that country’s bat and ball fanatics to a brand new game.
A young man who wanted to direct Bollywood films; a tour operator stationed in Mumbai; and a UK-based educator – yes, it sounds like the start of a joke. But for Sudip Chakraborty, Lincoln Harris and Rick Shrowder the sport of Aussie Rules is more than just a lark. This triumvirate, very different backgrounds and interests notwithstanding, is passionate about India and also about Australia’s native football code.
Until the end of 2012 the three worked mainly independently of one another, but in December they met at the first Indian national Australian Rules Championships in the southern state of Kerala.
In India, as we all know, cricket is more than just a game. It’s the game. Up to 80 per cent of the country’s 1.2 billion inhabitants are thought to watch or play it in some fashion. Almost 68 million Indians tuned in to watch their side win the 2011 World Cup. The major international series – the Indian Premier League – has a market value estimated at $US3billion.
In the second article on the future of Australian football in Asia, we spoke with Darrell Egan (founder of the Donnguan Blues in China) about how has been engaging locals in the game and the way to replicate and sustain such a program. In today's piece Darrell expands on his thoughts about developing an Asia-wide body to ensure the region stops being left behind in footy progress. Later we'll talk to some of the other Asian clubs, including a separate proposal for a Southeast Asian league, and we hope to discuss with the AFL their vision for the region.
We put it to Darrell that he'd mentioned to us the concept of setting up a body or league for footy in Asia and possibly the Pacific. Are you thinking Asia-Pacific or just Asia? Did he see it as being a formal governing body for the game in Asia or just a forum for developing ideas and setting up matches?
"The first thing is we have to ask is... Where is Aussie rules going international? What fruits can bear from the hard pioneering work Australians have have done bringing the game to these countries?
"The direction needs to be more local engagement which in turn attracts large global sponsors to those countries as you are including their demographic. We have to make these global footy pioneering Australians or locals feel their hard work has counted for something and this has to be a well structured, well sponsored and supportive formal peak body to empower them on the ground.
"Also Asia demographically is a great place to kick off Australian Rules football in a formal international sense".