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Update: Australian Football in India and Fiji

 
 
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gkavner
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2005 9:45 am    Post subject: Update: Australian Football in India and Fiji Reply with quote

Stayed in Delhi (India) for a month in January 2005 and now live in Suva, Fiji. I have relatives in both cities. Always interested in footballing cultures and traditions wherever I go so here are my personal findings:

New Delhi, India:

Australian football is unknown. Of my many relatives, all lifelong Delhi residents (from the middle class, the sort of people AFL would be targeting... that is, people with disposable income and cable TV), only a journalist 40-ish male cousin had heard of Australian Football. But he had no knowledge of any players, teams, etc. I watched many hours of sport on Star Cable TV (3 sport channels) and heard nothing of any football code other than Soccer. It may have been on at a certain time I was asleep, but I didn't hear of anything. No coverage at all in local or National printed press (Including weekly sports magazines). The influence of Australia in India is minimal. India is a VERY big country and doesn’t need to look outward, and pretty much it doesn’t.

A big sport story was Sania Mirza (Indian female tennis player who did well in Australian Open) and, of course, the Indian Cricket team. Inaugural Indian national Hockey (!) League was being heavily promoted and you could buy the team jerseys in sports stores. The adverts on TV for the Hockey League featured Sachin Tendulkar (cricket star/god). And to all North Americans: this is "field hockey" not the NHL type.

Soccer is big in India. Every day TV had matches from all the major European leagues (including Dutch). Most focus is on the EPL, but they also had live FA Cup matches as well. Champions League was also shown.

I wanted to "get into" Indian Football but Delhi has no team in the Indian National League. On the field, soccer in India is mainly a Bengali and Southern game. When I spoke to people about the big Indian teams like East Bengal FC and Mohun Baghan (both from Calcutta), almost everyone knew something about them. Some knew of the 'big' name players. I saw a game between Mohun Bagan and Churchill Bros (from Goa) on TV but the standard was terrible, below Australian National league standard.

Couldn't find Indian football jerseys anywhere in shops/markets but Beckham & Real Madrid are EVERYWHERE. The hated Manchester United as well. I picked up some fake but nice Chelsea gear for about $AU8 per shirt brand new and GOOD quality.

Conclusion... India has no concept of AFL at all. I’m not sure if they have any concept of Rugby either, but if they did I’m sure they would be unable to pick the difference. Soccer is big. Most schools had a Soccer pitch with netted goals (but no grass, the many, many cows eat all of it before they are forced to eat from the town garbage) Cricket was played everywhere and soccer was very visible. Lots of kids wearing soccer jerseys from big European teams.

Suva, Fiji:

Moved in Feb to live in Fiji for 3 years. In my 8 weeks here the following findings:
As a rule of thumb the ‘Fijians’ (natives, 53% of population) support Rugby Union and the 'Indians’ (descended from imported Indian workers, 41% of population) support Soccer.

When I arrived Fiji were about to embark to play in Rugby ‘Sevens’ world cup. Sevens is a cut-down version of full Rugby Union with 7 players instead of 15. Fiji duly won the world cup and a public holiday was declared!! Even when Australia won the America’s Cup in 1983 there was no public holiday! They are still raving about it a month later.

Rugby Union is the king here overall. When I meet Fijians and mention I’m from Canberra they often say “I support the Brumbies” (Canberra’s Rugby Union Super-12 team). Lots of International and Local Rugby on TV and saturation in the press.

Soccer is popular with Indians and some Fijians and I’ve been to a couple of local games (eg. Ba vs. Suva) where I was the only white man amongst a sea of Indians and occasional Fijian. Crowds around 3000-4000, played in small stadiums. Standard also not so great. Good coverage of local league in the press and European Soccer is popular (and live on pay-tv). Kids and adults wear soccer Jerseys around Suva, but by far more wearing Rugby Jerseys. Rugby league is way behind Union, but it is widely followed and does have good media coverage. Radio Australia has ABC live broadcasts of AFL on Saturdays and NRL on Sundays. People do follow the NRL here.

Australian Football in Fiji: Everyone here knows what it is. From personal experience asking people I meet, I would say the level of interest is about the same as AFL in New Zealand. That is, it is shown on TV here (after midnight on weekends via ABC Asia-Pacific TV taking the Channel 9 or 10 telecast) and the press does have a story or two on Mondays with the results but not near the back page. The articles are reprints of AAP or News Ltd stories.

People understand the basic rules (“six points for a goal”, etc) but don’t know the players or teams. Only a few, if any, know of who the top teams are at any point.

I HAVE SEEN PEOPLE HERE WEARING AFL GUERNSIES!!!!! A kid had a recent St Kilda jumper on a few weeks ago and yesterday I saw a guy wearing a Kangaroos jumper, both sleeveless, of course, due to the weather. I haven’t seen any AFL gear for sale at all at any shops here in Suva and Suva is pretty much the only big town here. One weird thing to note is that twice I’ve seen someone wearing a Rugby jumper with a non-AFL stripe/colour pattern but then sewn onto the jumper the AFL team crest of Melbourne and Fremantle! I have no idea when or how but I guess the garment makers assume Victoria, etc must have Rugby teams as well!?

I have some cousins deeply into sport who I chat to about the local soccer (our team is Nasinu… I wear the cap around town!) and they said that Aussie Rules is known of but no one plays it. They didn’t know anything apart from the most basic rules (as in NZ) and when I explained why Victoria and Tasmania don’t have teams in Super 12 they got bored and changed the topic back to soccer.

I’ve met 3 or 4 people who lived or studied in Melbourne but they didn’t know much about the AFL. But I’m still new here so I’ll have a much fuller picture soon enough. The overall Australian influence generally in Fiji is VERY strong.

And there are NO AFL GROUNDS/GOALPOSTS anywhere in Fiji (or India) that I’ve seen. And I have been looking.

Weirdly, India’s national soccer team are touring Fiji later this year… how’s that for merging my two recent international forays (in a footballing sense)!
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Eagles1
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 6:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,
What a great post GKavner,
Some basic info for you,
There is a Aussie Rules forming group in Fiji run by the Aussie Expat Police Commissioner for Fiji.
There is a website for them www.fafa.com.fj
Am sure they would like your support.

Brian Clarke of the IAFC visited India in 2003. Held clinics etc. The Aussie Rules group in India was The Indian Amateur Australian Football Association. This league had set up in various states of India with semi government support.
All those cricket grounds were going to waste in the off season
The Indian team "The Tigers" were to visit Melb in March 2004. They had visa problems and were unable to travel. This squad was to have intensive coaching and return to India and spread the word.
Not sure what has happened since in that country.

Cheers
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gkavner
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 2:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the compliment Eagles1. I just want to clarify something to give a better understanding of my opinoin of India...

"All those cricket grounds were going to waste in the off season"

Actually, there aren't that many cricket grounds in India. It is one of the points I remarked to my Father-in-law (mad India cricket supporter, like most Indians), "the reason Australia is better at cricket than India is because there are plenty of open parks and pitches in Australia and very few in India".

That's right, although in India you'll see kids (and adults) playing street cricket and kicking the soccer ball around, they're doing it on dusty small, square strips of urban "gardens" which double as carparks and markets. Not to mention the cows that just hang around the streets all day. There is no grass and someone diving to take a catch will often block the path of a budding Ronaldo just about to score a great goal.

Over a billion people, all cricket mad, but nowhere to play!

There are the (few) big stadiums and school grounds with open space but India is a very, very , very crowded country and just so different to Australia in a recreational/outdoor sense. Put it this way... many times I stopped on the footpath (if there was one) to watch a cricket or soccer game and invariably a couple of minutes later I would be engaged by beggars asking "khana baby khana" (give money so my baby can eat).

And there is no backyard cricket in Delhi because people don't even have a backyard. Often they don't have a house. Amongst the middle-classes that do have backyards, they are most likely used by the servants for growing vegetables or keeping pets. Another difference with Australia, EVERYONE in the middle-class keeps servents.

Organised sport is most likely a school thing because that is pretty much the only place I saw proper marked-out sporting grounds. And then only the wealthy schools have the luxury of having the space for such activities.
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Eagles1
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have listed the web address for the IAFC.
Go to www.iafc.com.au
Find " India" in the countries list on front page then follow the links to the report on India.

Thanks for the clarification on cricket grounds. It was my and many others "perception" that things were different on that point.
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