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Flinders University Experience with AFL India

Posted on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 by ARFAI,


Josh Abott (fifth from left standing behind) in Bongaon, West Bengal

I was extremely privileged to travel to Kolkata, India, with 9 other Flinders University (Adelaide) students in late 2016. Our main objective through the university was to run Physical Education classes in disadvantaged schools, and lend a hand coaching at some soccer and cricket academies. Being an avid AFL fan, I did some research before we left, and got in contact with Sudip Chakraborty at AFL India, who connected us with the leaders on ground in India to hep run the activities.

The first clinic was in Bongaon, rural West Bengal, and involved a long 3-hour bus trip from our accommodation in Kolkata. The bus was very squishy, and the traffic was something that none of us had experienced before! Finally we arrived at the soccer pitch, and quickly saw hundreds of kids come running over to experience footy, many of whom would have been experiencing it for the very first time. Very quickly we saw the tackling potential of some of the bigger players, and the agility and dodging talents of some of the smaller players. We were also shown our first match of Kabaddi as the leaders set up the footy drills.

After the Kabaddi demonstration, we began to do some drills. Lochie and Christian took some of the older boys and ran them through some more complex drills, where Aiden and Aaron took the younger boys and focused more on fundamental skills such as handballing and catching/marking. Courtney and Kristen took the girls through some of the fundamentals as well. I ran through some drills with some of the middle aged kids, including some lane handballing and kicking, three man weave, a ‘stitches’ drill, and a handball game to finish. While it took a little while to get our explanations across due to the language barrier, Rakesh and some of the local leaders were very helpful, and the kids were clearly having a great time. After the drills began to wrap up, we organised a full pitch sized game, in which some of the Flinders Students participated in the first half. I umpired the first half of the game, being a field umpire back in Australia, and it was very challenging due to the heat, but a rewarding experience. I managed to play the second half and had a really fun time with the kids.


Once the game was finished, we all took the opportunity to take some photos and selfies with the kids, which was an equally rewarding experience for both the kids and ourselves! We then got the opportunity to see just how these kids lived, which was quite an eye opening experience. We then all clambered back into the bus, which made for a long hot drive back to our accommodation.

Our work within the schools was severely hampered by a lack of equipment, so we were forced to use the little footballs that we had brought along with us. While they were much smaller than the real thing, we were able to explain what an Australian Football was, and how it was different to rugby or American football.

During the second week of our trip, we travelled to Delhi to see the Taj Mahal, and if it hadn’t been for Sudip’s help at the hotel, all 10 of us including Brett and Zac from Mumbai would have been in big trouble without anywhere to stay.

We continued to run football-type drills in our school classes with the little footballs, focusing on ball handling, basic catching skills, and sometimes branching into kicking drills when we had the time to do so.

Due to the popularity of the first clinic that we ran, a second one was organised, this time in the district of West Midnapore. This time the drive wasn’t as long as the first time, although it still took a while to get there. We arrived to a big police presence, and a huge crowd lined up along the fence, which was a sight to behold! We were honored to be apart of a welcoming ceremony before we began the clinic. The group of participants was a bit smaller this time, so the drills were run at a more basic level. The participants were very quick learners however, and we quickly decided that we could play a game. Before we started that though, the boys of our group were convinced to play Kabaddi against some locals, which we actually won! I’m sure they took it very easy on us though! We then got into a game, which flowed a lot better than the game at the previous clinic. Once again it was a very rewarding experience for both the participants and ourselves.

Our last official AFL India involvement was at the West Bengal State Championships 2016, where we all volunteered as goal, boundary and field umpires throughout the day. While this was very different to the previous two clinics as it was a championship, it was an interesting insight into how the state championships worked. It was good to see the skill level of the players, especially considering that most of the players had never been coached properly before. One thing in particular that I liked to see was the toughness of the players in their intent to get the ball, some very courageous efforts throughout the day. A few Australian players could learn a thing or two about commitment like some of these Indian players!

Our last University placement location was with a Police soccer academy right near Eden Gardens stadium, where we ran some footy based fitness drills, which were very challenging. We also presented them with a signed Adelaide Crows Football, and briefly explained the sport to them.

Overall, I loved my experience in India, and the work we did with AFL India was the most enjoyable of the whole lot. I have made some lifelong friends in Harris and Rakesh, and would love an opportunity to go back and do it all again!


*This article has been written by Flinders University student Josh Abbott who was part of the first internship group for ARFAI