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ARFAI @ ABWI 2015 (Australia Business Week in India)

Posted on Saturday, March 14, 2015 by ARFAI,

Andrew Robb in India

Cam Vale, CEO – Hockey Australia, exchange the Hockey and Footy with Sudip Chakraborty, Sec. Gen. ARFAI, along with Australia’s Trade Minister Mr. Andrew Robb

The Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI) has been actively striving to spread the joys of Footy, both on and off the field. The latest in the line of off-field exposure took place at the Australia Business Week in India, held in January 2015. The conference which was held across multiple cities in India, saw the Secretary General of ARFAI, Sudip Chakraborty, represent the Australian Football community and share the story of the sports’ development in India thus far.

This one-of-a-kind conference was designed to target the industry sectors where Indian demand best aligns with strong Australian capability and capacity. 400 Australian delegates were present at the kick-off session held at the Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. Sports was identified as one of these sectors for the first time, which brought ARFAI to the fore. As a speaker at the session on Grassroots Sports in India: the state of play,

Sudip spoke about how readily accepted the National sport of Australia, Footy, has been to the larger Indian community, irrespective of their social standing. In coherence to the core focus of the session on ‘how accessible sport is in India to the bulk of the population, whether it is just for the middle class, or how people with low socio-economic status can embrace and participate in organized sport’, Sudip presented the story of how ARFAI had amassed participation in thousands with a small workforce and limited funding, starting with West Bengal and spreading to 7 states across the country at present. Also speaking on the same was Mr. Jay Shah, Director, The Sports Gurukul, who spoke about what his organization has been doing in the same space.

Minister Andre Robb hand-passing the AFL India Footy

Minister Andrew Robb hand-passing the AFL India Footy

Requiring only a football to kick off a game, Footy is a significantly cheaper alternative to many prevalent sports. Thus it is no surprise that ARFAI’s work with marginalized communities has been welcomed with open arms, and children from these communities comprise a majority of the 6000 participants under ARFAI initiatives till date. Sudip demonstrated the Footy growth curve in India to an audience comprising of head-honchos of various private and government sporting bodies in India, along with the Australian sporting delegates. Sudip went on to participate in a panel discussion on ‘how to setup grass roots sport programs with limited physical infrastructure and how to involve all sections of society in the same.’ Sudip shared the dais with Mr. Pavan Gandhok from Sportacular, Mr. Mohit Pabbi from DLF Soccer Academy and Mr. Pratik Kumar, CEO of Magic Bus India Foundation.

The other highlight of the conference for ARFAI arrived in the form of the Australian Trade Minister, Mr. Andrew Robb, a big Footy fan himself, rolling up his corporate sleeves to play Footy with underprivileged children representing sports NGO, STAIRS. Also present at the session were Australian Senator Hon. Richard Coelbeck and Mr. Siddhartha Upadhyay, Founder and Secretary General of STAIRS. The session was wrapped up with a unique exchange between the head of India’s National sport in Australia and the head of Australia’s National sport in India. Mr. Cam Vale, CEO, Hockey Australia and Sudip Chakraborty, Secretary General of ARFAI agreed in principle to cross-promote each other’s’ respective National sport in the future, in presence of Minister Robb.

The conference ended on a hopeful note for ARFAI as the Australian Trade Minister responded positively to Sudip’s plea for continued support from Australia for further development of Footy in India. ARFAI’s efforts have been well acknowledged in Australia but getting support from Indian entities has proved to be a struggle thus far. ARFAI is hopeful that such initiatives like the conference will aid their development plans through support from within India as well as our counterparts in Australia.