Australian rules football in Africa

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The South African Lions in action against Ireland during the 2008 Australian Football International Cup in Melbourne

Australian rules football in Africa is only played at an organised level in South Africa, although there are programs under development in Ghana, Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and there have been attempts to introduce the sport in other African nations.

The first African born person to play Australian rules football professionally in the VFL/AFL was South African born Stephen Lawrence, while the first indigenous African born in Africa to play in the AFL was South African born Damien Cupido. Majak Daw, born in Sudan, was the first African to be born outside of South Africa drafted into the AFL.

South Africa

Australian rules football had been played in South Africa since around the time of the Boer War, although there was an eighty year period between World War I and the 1990s when the sport was not played at any level. In recent times, South Africa has been home to an increased amount of effort in introducing the sport both from the Australian Football League and the South African Government. The sport is now played widely in the North West Province and there are plans to increase registered playing numbers nation-wide to 20,000 by 2008. The sport is controlled by the AFL South Africa.

Botswana

The government of Botswana approached the AFL in 2009 with a view to extending the FootyWILD program from South Africa across the border into Botswana. Australian football in South Africa began in the North West Province, an area bordering Botswana and with numerous cultural, linguistic and historical ties to the neighboring country.1

Ghana

Australian football was played on a non-organised level in Ghana in 2007, where traveling Australians played with children.2

In early 2009, AFL club the Western Bulldogs announced that they were in talks with Azumah Nelson regarding the introduction of Australian rules football at the Azumah Nelson Foundation (AZNEF) Sports Academy.3 Nelson was quoted as saying "Once we become familiar with handling the oval shaped ball, I am sure that Ghana will produce many champions for the AFL Clubs in Australia"4 The Bulldogs also stated that they may travel to Ghana to visit the AZNEF Sports Academy in future.4

Kenya

There have been efforts to start the sport at junior level since 2004.5 Gus Horsey from the Baltimore Washington Eagles from the United States Australian Football League visited the country in February and September, running several footy clinics and organising a grand final between four local teams in Nairobi. During Horsey's second visit to Kenya to coach Australian Rules, he regularly trained over 100 kids after school with help from local soccer coaches,6 although plans through USFooty Kids to continue the clinics in future did not go ahead.

The AFL reported in 2009 that junior clinics were being conducted in Kenya under the same model as FootyWILD in South Africa.1

Senegal

Australian rules football was played sporadically in Senegal during the 1990s, after Darwin-based Mark Moretti visited Dakar for two months in 1991. Moretti had introduced the sport to local children originally as an example of overseas culture, but there was interest from both the children and some local soccer administrators in continuing the sport. When Moretti returned in 1997 there had not been any progress, so he organised some footballs and other material to be sent to Senegal and the country was represented at the International Australian Football Council AGM in Darwin in 1999.7 Around this time, two teams were established, named the Crocodiles and the Hares, but the sport has since disappeared in the country.

A team representing Senegal appeared at the "World 9s" in Catalonia in 2008, consisting of Senegalese nationals resident in Spain and competing in the Catalan AFL.

Uganda

Non-organised Australian football at junior level featuring locals has been played in Uganda in 2006.8

Western Sahara

Australian football was played on an informal basis in Western Sahara in 2008.9

Zimbabwe

The sport of Australian rules football is in its early stages of development in Zimbabwe, with10Australian Football Zimbabwe in the planning stage, with its main aims being to combine Aussie Rules Football as a developing sport, with health clinics and information sessions to be run to assist disadvantaged and sick children.

African community in Melbourne

Some Australians of African descent have played professionally in the Australian Football League, including Afro-Brazilian Heritier Lumumba and African Americans Dwayne Armstrong and Sanford Wheeler.

Ethiopian refugee Goaner Tutlan was trialled by Essendon in 2004, although he did not play senior football.11

The Sudanese, Ethiopian, Somali and Eritrean refugee communities in Melbourne have attracted some attention as a future source of AFL talent, with clubs in suburbs such as Flemington seeing increasing numbers of African players.12 Sudanese-born Majak Daw began playing for the Western Jets in the elite U-18 TAC Cup in Victoria in 2009.13 Daw was considered for drafting by Footscray, Essendon and North Melbourne.14 On 15 December 2009, Daw was drafted to North Melbourne's rookie list,15 becoming the first AFL player from Sudan1416 and frequently (but incorrectly) reported the first African-born AFL player.1617 Sudanese refugee Mayong Akoon also played in the TAC Cup with the Calder Cannons in 2005.18

Team Africa at the International Cup

A team known as Team Africa, drawn from various Melbourne African communities, competed in the 2008 Australian Football International Cup's Multicultural Challenge, playing matches against South Africa, Tonga and an Asian community side dubbed Team Asia, a number of whom played for the Elgar Park Dragons.19

Team Africa's players were from countries including Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Djibouti.19

African performance at International Cup

Flag Nation Nickname 2002 2005 2008 2011
South Africa South Africa Lions 11th 8th 3rd 5th

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