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Flinders University Adelaide – Internship with ARFAI

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2016 by ARFAI,

The interns in West Bengal with ARFAI President Ashim Dawn (second from left) and Indian team player Jasim Akhtar (far left)

The Sport Health and Physical Activity department of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, organised an internship programme for their final year students with sporting organisations in India in November 2016. Among other local cricket, soccer and sporting organisations, Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI), who are registered under the New Colombo plan of the Australian Government, were privileged to have services of 10 of these students who worked in West Bengal and Maharashtra for a period of one month.


The group of eight boys and girls who helped out in Bengal spent a considerable amount of time in the countryside where the majority of Australian Football development work has been taking place in the state. For example the remote village near Bangladesh border in Bongaon (which was visited by the Essendon Bombers players) was their first stop where they helped coach the young boys and girls who play there enhance their skills and in turn were introduced to the indigenous Indian sport of Kabaddi, which is slowly becoming popular in India.

Their most significant contribution during the month was a day in Daspur in West Midnapore district of West Bengal, an area once known as a part of ‘Maoist’ (left – extremists) heartland, but with sincere effort from the Government of West Bengal in the recent years, the people of the area have given up arms and returned to normal life through sports. Australian Rules Football was the newest inclusion to the sports they played and this was a bold move by Rakesh Ghosh, Secretary General of Footy Association of Bengal (FAB) who decided to take the Aussie interns to the area to make the locals feel more special.


The day turned out to be a phenomenal experience for the interns as few thousands gathered to watch them teach and play Footy with the 120 local players at the local soccer ground which was guarded by 200 armed police personnel. Police had to be present due to the history of the region and not that there were any threats, but the police authorities of the region decided to take no chances with the security of probably the first ever foreign guests that the locals had ever welcomed.

Winners of the 3rd Bengal State Championship 2016 with the Flinders University students

For the group in Bengal, the internship programme ended with helping organise the 3rd annual State Championship of West Bengal run by FAB at Khardah in North 24 Pgns district. The boys and girls helped the FAB organisers run the tournament in the form of match officials, umpires, coaches and along with that helped select the junior and senior teams that would represent West Bengal in the National Championship in January 2017.

On the other hand two out of the 10 interns were based in Thane district of Maharashtra, who helped the Footy Association of Maharashtra (FAM) officials to spread Aussie Rules to new areas of the state after few years of activities in only one area of Mumbai in the past. With their support, the FAM officials were able to spread the sport to Navi Mumbai, Thane and another area of Mumbai. The biggest outcome was the interns helping out the FAM officials organise the first ever State Championship of Maharashtra, which was organised at Nerul in Navi Mumbai.

The Navi Mumbai Bombers (Sr.) Champion squad with the interns from Flinders University

The entire month proved to be very productive for the growth of Australian Rules Football in India led by ARFAI and managed by the respective state associations in their states and special thanks to Deb Agnew, the Industry Placement Coordinator at Flinders University and Josh Abbott, one of the interns who led the relation from the start. ARFAI looks forward to replicate the programme every year henceforth and help the players in India benefit from the experience of the Australian sports students.

End of the day, the interns were part of a historic initiative to introduce the sport in distant rural India and their day at West Midnapore helped spread awareness of the sport like wildfire, as since then about 2000 players took up the new sport in the district of West Midnapore, and surrounding Jhargram and East Midnapore districts in a matter of 7-8 months.