2006 – Brian Dixon’s Global Footy tour

UntitledFormer Melbourne Football Club veteran Brian Dixon, who had also served as the minister of youth, sport and recreation in the Victorian Government, Australia, visited Kolkata, India towards the end of 2006 as a part of his global tour to promote Australian Rules Football. Dixon, the man behind the development of the sport in South Africa, held a number of clinics with students of different schools in the city, starting off with La Martiniere School for Boys, and actually planted the seeds of development of the sport in Kolkata, which took off in a couple of years down the line. Dixon was happy with the response from the students (as mentioned in ‘Dixon rebooting Footy in  India’) of the sports fanatic city of India and was looking forward to India’s debut in AFL International Cup 2008 in Melbourne, Australia.

2008 – Ricky Ponting launches Australian Rules Football in Kolkata

UntitledIt all started in early 2008 when the then Australian cricket captain, Ricky Ponting, launched the unique Australia game in Kolkata, where he was playing in the inaugural season of the Indian Premiere League for the Kolkata Knight Riders. There was an agreement between the AFL and West Bengal Kabaddi Association of sorts to promote each other’s game in their respective countries. For the purpose an informal governing body was formed, which comprised of Mr. A.K. Saha, former member of West Bengal Kabaddi Association and Mr. S. Nagar, a businessman from Kolkata and Mr. R.L. Singh among others. Their initial efforts resulted in the game kicking off in India, with different sporting bodies in the city of Kolkata being informed to send their players over to try out a new sport.

Thus, clinics were organized at the YMCA grounds in Maidan area of Kolkata with couple of local coaches who learned the skills from the two members of the initial governing body who had travelled over to Melbourne to get trained by the AFL.

Coaching and training starts in Kolkata – Yuta Kobayashi


A couple of months down the line, Yuta Kobayashi, then working as AFL International Development Coordinator, came up to Kolkata for around three weeks. A pool of around 100 players along with the coaches got the opportunity to get first hand training and exposure of the game. Efforts were also made to make the players watch AFL match clippings in turns, for the much required visual understanding of how the game is actually played. Here started the journey of AFL India.

Yuta’s stay in Kolkata was utilized effectively; a period which also saw the first ever exhibition match of Australian Rules Football in India played by the players who had attended the clinic, as a curtain-raiser to the finals of an inter-school soccer tournament named ‘Goalzz’, organized by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kolkata.

Selection camp for first ever Indian Tigers Team for IC08

3Thereafter regular training started with the players meeting thrice a week to sharpen their skills and impress the selectors, as they were now keeping a close watch on the players to select the first team representing India in Aussie Rules Football to participate in AFL International Cup 2008 in Melbourne, Australia. For majority of the players, it was an opportunity to travel outside India for the first time in their life, along with the opportunity to represent their country.  Meanwhile, new players kept coming in for training for a few months.

By July 2008, the organizers had the selected list of players ready along with a list of substitutes, but the final names were disclosed right before the team was ready to depart, with the few promising candidates missing out at the end due to visa issues.

Before the team departed from India, the organizers declared at a meeting that the Captain of the Indian Tigers team for the AFL International Cup 2008 will be Mario Shelton, someone who had represented India in Rugby before and was associated with the promotion of the game since the process started in early 2008.

IC08 – India’s performance – Experiences – Balraj

Captains of 16 countries at media launch in IC’08

Indian Tigers Australian Rules Football team made its international debut playing against the Chinese Demons for an international friendly match at Royal Park, Melbourne before the AFL International Cup 2008 kick-started. Though India lost its debut match, there were quite a few positives to be taken into the tournament. Apart from AFL being the biggest support for the newest entrants in the International Cup, Bhratiya Vidya Bhavan – Australia was one of the major sponsors, counterpart of Bhavans educational group in India, which has over 100 schools across India, given two of the players in the squad coming from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan school in Kolkata.

The tournament saw India starting off against the big and strong Samoans who physically destroyed the amateur Indian side, but at the same time India did not go goal-less in its very first appearance at the International Cup, with Prakash Kailashnathan, a Melbourne based Indian player, scoring the first international goal for his country.

In the second match for India, the then defending champions, New Zealand Hawks white-washed the newest entrants in the arena with an over 200 score to nil, leaving the Tigers with a lot of things to learn from. In the third match India faced the Japanese Samurais and were able to reduce the goal difference to half, unable to match the speed of the Japanese.

Having faced the three big teams to start off with, things could only get better for the Indian Tigers in the tournament ahead, as they faced the Finland Icebreakers next and gave quite a fight before losing a hard fought match.

The best performance came in at the last match of the tournament for the Tigers, as they faced the Chinese Demons. The highlight of the tournament for the Indian Tigers remained with the Tigers being ahead at the end of the first quarter. Although they were unable to hold on to their advantage, they lost a very closely fought game, and lost by just one goal. Many at the AFL were of the opinion that India should take the experience at the tournament very positively, as it was no doubt one of the best performances shown by a debutant country at the international level, playing its first ever tournament.

Before the tournament started, the Indian contingent felicitated Balraj Singh with an honorary Indian team Guernsey.  Balraj, the first ever Indian origin Aussie Rules player to have been drafted in the AFL by the Adelaide Crows in 1999, took on the role of the coach for the Indian Tigers team for the AFL International Cup 2008, sharing his experience with and guiding the young side representing India.

More than a year of no-show – fresh start initiated by Sudip, Darren and Ash

Upon returning to India from International Cup 2008, future of footy in India looked bleak with the people in charge losing interest. After a quiet period of around 15 months, Sudip Chakraborty and Darren Ross, both members of the IC08 squad, decided to take up the responsibility of developing the sport in India, with help from Ash Nugent, an enthusiastic Australian with an Indian wife, who was keen to help promote his native sport in India. So there it started, and over the next two years, it has been the passion that Sudip had developed for the sport, that helped him try and drive the sport around India, trying to start something big. But there were numerous challenges, with the two big disadvantages being the financial support and the lack of awareness of the sport, which kept people from coming forward to spread a new game.

But Sudip met Peter Linford, the Australian Trade Commissioner in India then, who promised all sorts of support and contacts in India, to help start off a process of development. Peter, a passionate footy fan was behind the sports development in Dubai, while he was posted there earlier. Thus the first official support from the Australian side encouraged everyone involved.

Brett Kirk in India – Footy factory – Jan-Feb 2011

2011050421232678_1Brett Kirk, retired former Sydney Swans captain, and the then International Ambassador of the AFL, World Tour, named ‘Captain Kirk’s Odyssey’ made India his second halt after Sri Lanka, with his base being Mumbai.This is where he kicked off his tour with a clinic in the city at the Oval Maidan, Churchgate, organized by Sudip. It was followed by a meeting with Austrade officials in Mumbai to join hands and help develop the game in India.

Sudip insisted That Kirky visited Kolkata, where most of the country’s existing footy players are located, many of whom were part of India’s last International Cup campaign. So they flew down to Kolkata for a day where a training session was oganised. The session was fruitful, but due to the very short notice not all players could attend. But those who attended got an experience of a lifetime to have received training from a legend of the game.

Probably the most fruitful part of his stay in India was when Brett visited one the football-manufacturing companies in Jalandhar, Punjab, the ‘Hike International’ and dived into a pool of footies. For the first time in his life he got to know how and where footies are made, something that has been his life since childhood.

Sudip was quoted later about the discovery as “It was a small step for Brett Kirk, but a giant leap for AFL India”, as he has mentioned on number of occasions since then that he was on his way to become a film director, but the two weeks that he spent with Captain Kirk, made him change his mind and decide hat footy was his life ahead.

There were a couple of other positives during Kirky’s stay in India, when he organized a footy clinic for the students associated with a sports based NGO in India, named the Magic Bus. He also organized a few clinics with the young sports enthusiasts in the Ganeshpuri area of Maharashtra, where he spent a few days to experience the peaceful setting of the countryside in India, while picking up skills of Kabaddi, an Indian sport, from the boys out there.


AussieX – Peter Jess in India – groundwork – April 2011

With a mission to expand the work being done by the AussieX (http://www.theaussiex.com/ )in Canada, the founder of the company visited India during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 along with veteran player manager from Australia Peter Jess, who was determined to find support for the AussieX programme to kick start in India.

The mission didn’t bear fruit eventually for the programme which taught students in Canada how to play Australian Football, Net Ball and Cricket. But the initiative for around a year to get things rolling for a programme surrounding Footy in India, gave Sudip a lot of good experience and knowledge, to plan for AFL India’s future along with some great connections in the sport field both in India and Australia.

Rajeev approaches – Sudip organizes clinics in Kozhikode – Kerala registration

20120213100244713_1The existing players were based only in the state of West Bengal till then and the necessity to grow the sport out of the state was realized by Sudip, who had started organizing small clinics, introducing the sport to young students in Mumbai, while he was pursuing his under-grads in the city.

While doing so, Rajeev Tharani, the Secretary of Kozhikode District Olympic Association of the state of Kerala, approached Sudip and expressed his interest in promoting Aussie Rules in his state. Rajeev a passionate rugby fan laid the platform for Sudip to travel over to Kozhikode, Kerala and conduct the first Footy clinic in Kerala with 30 odd players from different sporting backgrounds and a few coaches from different sport to learn a completely new sport.

In a few months, Rajeev followed the clinics up with weekly clinics organized by himself and more importantly registering ‘Australian Football Association of Kerala’ with the Kerala state Government. He further helped get Aussie Rules get accepted by the Olympic Association of Kerala.

Lingona – Pandanas 1st sponsor – 1st 100 footies

Reading about Captain Kirk’s Odyssey – India leg, Matthew Osmond from Lingona Pty Ltd, a passionate footy fan from New South Wales, Australia and a big fan of Kirky himself, offered to contribute to Brett Kirk’s efforts. Thus AFL India got its own footies for the first time, thanks to Lingona Pty Ltd.

Srinath gets in touch – His experience

No one in the mini Indian Footy family back then had a clue that one of their Indian brother was playing the game for two consecutive seasons in the Welsh Australian Rules Football League in Europe for the Cardiff Panthers Club. Srinath Lakshmaiya from Chennai, Tamil Nadu was in the UK for his masters when he used his spare time to learn a new sport and went on to love it so much that he became a regular for the Panthers.

Upon his return to India, he got in touch with Sudip and expressed his interest to get involved with Footy development in India. Given his international experience, he was readily welcomed on board and was one of the most experienced footy players back then in India to join the Indian Tigers squad for the AFL International Cup 2011.

India’s participation in IC11 confirmed – preparations

20110801100736563_1Once India’s participation in the AFL International Cup 2011 was confirmed after an eagerness expressed by the AFL International department to have India on board, it was time to train regularly, look for sponsors and raise funds for the Indian Tigers to travel over to Sydney and Melbourne to be joined by fellow Indian origin players from Australia to add to the squad and yes of course, sort out visas.

ISI invites AFL India for exhibition match – felicitation

It was the exhibition match at Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) – Kolkata, on 8th August, that concluded Indian Tigers’ practice in the city, which was on for the last five months, three days a week. The Sports Consultant at the ISI, Mr. Pradipto Kr. Roy, invited AFL India to introduce Australian Rules Football to the students and staffs of the prestigious institute. Mr. Roy, who is a Taekwondo Hall of Famer himself, is a big sports lover, and is one of the firsts in India to step forward to help and encourage a new sport in the country.

Hence two teams were formed amongst the pool of players in West Bengal, and the IC08 team representatives teamed up to face the ‘Rest of AFL India’ team. It was a highly competitive match, with IC08 team beating the ‘Rest’ 44-43.

The crowd which had gathered at the ground was excited to see a new sport being played, and were thrilled by the way the match was closely contested.

With the footy trainings coming to an end, the players selected to travel with the Indian Tigers team for the AFL International Cup 2011, left for Sydney via Singapore on 10th August and reached Sydney on 11th August, where they were joined by their co-teammates, the Indians living in Australia and their team manager, Ash Nugent.

Media coverage before India takes off – sponsors on board

Getting sponsors for an alien sport in India was quite a task and a first break through came from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Kendra in Sydney, Australia, who had sponsored the Indian Tigers during the International Cup in 2008 as well. Mr. Gambhir Watts, President of Bhavan’s Australia expressed his interest to support his home team for the second time, and welcomed the team to Australia.

To try and get local sponsors from India turned out to be a huge task and eventually Indian Tigers were left with few businessmen and well-wishers from Kolkata throwing in personal donations based on relations along with the players themselves having to pay a major chunk of the expenses.

The playing kit and team polos were sponsored by Richmond Football Club and Speedy Promotions respectively to help with another major chunk of the costs.

But thanks to the invite by Indian Statistical Institute, the local Bengali media in Kolkata got interested and the Tigers got quite a bit of coverage both on print and television. This was added to the coverage provided by national sports business journal Sportz Power spreading the news about the effort put in by the boys to achieve a herculean task.

Thus the boys were off on board Singapore Airlines from Kolkata destined for Sydney, as the International Cup organizers had taken the tournament out of Melbourne for the very first time to support the development of the game in the state of New South Wales. The second half of the tournament was however scheduled to conclude in Melbourne.

IC11 performance – International conference – Tea at PM’s residence

The official launch of International Cup 2011, at Luna Park, overlooking Sydney Harbour bridge and Sydney Opera House, was a brilliant way to start off the tournament , with the captains of all the 18 men’s and 6 women’s teams meeting each other.

The programme was hosted by David Matthews, the General Manager, National and International Development, AFL who welcomed all the countries to the International Cup. The tournament was then declared open by Hon. Graham Annesley, MP, Minister of Sports and Recreation, New South Wales, Australia. Brett Kirk, the International Ambassador of AFL, who completed his Odyssey around the world promoting and helping international footy, spoke about his memorable experiences and the love and passion he saw around the world about footy.

The captains were then invited one by one to pose for the official photos, both group and individual ones, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in the backdrop, followed by the team managers’ meet, to round off for the morning.

 First  international victory


It took us 10 international matches to get our first international victory, but the day had finally come. 24/08/2011 is a historic day for Indian footy. Four years since India started playing the sport, India Tigers got their first taste of victory today when they defeated East Timor 9.6.(60) – 8.5.(53) in a brilliant game of footy, coming from behind at the start of the third quarter. Jay Himat (7) was the star of the match as he scored 8 out of the 9 goals and looked like scoring every time he had the footy in his hands. Every player played the game of their life and put in all that they had got to live the moment we were waiting for.

AFL England experience of Sudip – Research – AFL England AGM, AFL Europe umpiring, Wolverines & Scorpions

All Star Footy-1

Meanwhile the AFL India President and the India Tigers Captain Sudip Chakraborty completed his masters in Sport Management from Loughborough University in UK, and successfully utilized his time in Europe to experience the footy action in UK while playing for the Wolverhampton Wolverines in the pre-season games and Nottingham Scorpions in the AFL CNE (Central-North England) league. At the same time he worked on his master-degree research on the topic ‘How to develop Australian Rules Football in Europe?’ with help from the AFL Europe General Manager Ben MacCormack. He also umpired for AFL Europe during the Easter series when the AIS Academy met the European Legions at London in 2012.

Mumbai, Maharashtra

For Lincoln Harris, who started taking small groups of tourists to India 10 years ago and now running travel company named India Unbound, the Footy push is less about the sport and more about the connections that Indians from all walks of life can make by playing Aussie Rules. He loves the game, to be sure, but when he suggested kicking a ball around instead of playing a semi-regular game of cricket with some friends and locals a few years back it was initially just to try something different. He soon realized it could be a chance to kick more important goals.

And that’s exactly what started to happen. The Wednesday training and Sunday games played at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park (where the cricket connection also runs deep – one of the world’s greats, Sachin Tendulkar, began his career playing here) quickly became a melting pot of university students, the middle classes as well as those not so well off, all of whom found the new game addictive.

With the help of non-government organisations Harris found himself running a half-decent local competition. A subsequent contact with Chakraborty opened up more doors and also ensured Mumbai’s two teams – the Mahim Cats and Matunga Tigers ­– got to travel to Kerala for the inaugural national championship.

Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Business, sport and social cohesion are all worthy drivers for Australian Rules in India but UK-based Rick Shrowder has yet another: education. The former Adelaide local had lived in northern England for 13 years where he set up a sports-based educational program called Global Community Sports (GCS), delivering programs to primary and secondary schools and young offender institutes in the region. Australian Rules is his sporting tool of choice. After seeing a television show on air in India, Shrowder thought it would be a worthwhile exercise expanding his program to the sub continent. He set off in 2007 to do just that.

The project went on to become education with a unique twist. Shrowder got his UK students to put together manuals with words and pictures to explain in their own way how the sport works and what they have learnt during their program. Since 2010 the manuals have been used to introduce more than 500 people to the sport in Madurai, in southern India.

“Teaching them Australian football, they have learnt about a lot of issues,” Shrowder says. “You can talk about community cohesion, diversity and an introduction to the country of Australia.”

He sees the code growing to become a more substantial national league and with the right assistance a part of a wider education program in Indian schools. “Sport is a great way to engage with young people. For literacy, numeracy and greater learning. The bigger it gets, the more people will have value in involvement from administrators to coaches or umpires.”

Registration of new board – ARFAI

The then AFL governing body in India named ‘AFL-India ‘worked from Kolkata and Mumbai, with Sudip travelling around West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, New Delhi trying to start off. Luck came through in Kerala as mentioned with a big sports lover Rajeev Raj, a member of the Kerala State Olympic Association, taking up the responsibility in Kerala. Sudip’s efforts in Mumbai couldn’t help find anyone who could take up the charge in the state.

It was Lincoln’s initial idea of getting the boys in Mumbai to play a few matches with the boys in Bengal, Tamil Nadu or Kerala, an idea which Sudip took on without hesitating to try and put together a multi-city tournament of sorts, gradually becoming the first national level AFL tournament in India. Rajeev invited everyone over to Calicut, Kerala to organize the tournament there, promising all possible local support.

AFL India held an official media launch for the tournament in Gurgaon, where they announced OGM (Oil and Gas Mining) as a major sponsor, and the company’s ambassador, former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh, as the tournament’s patron. AFL clubs Richmond, Essendon and GWS and Big Bash cricket club the Melbourne Stars all sent in signed jumpers as auction items, which assisted AFL India raise money for the tournament.

“It’s a dream come true, a small but important step to creating widespread interest in the game and a bigger all-India league.” Teams from the cities of Madurai, Kozhikode and Mumbai participated in the event, wearing the colours of AFL teams North Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney, Geelong, Essendon and Richmond. The boys from Bengal, who had experience of four years with Footy and were relatively elder and bigger than the three new states in the AFL India map, were decided to be kept away from this tournament, giving the three other states level playing ground.

For the players, the tournament provided opportunities they could only have dreamt of such as travelling inter-state, interacting with people of different backgrounds and being pioneers of a new sport. The tournament was as much about Footy as it was the individual and social benefits that come with being part of a team. Aussie Rules is a great leveler, but it also empowers people.

The tournament, which was an outcome of continuous support from the Australian Trade Commission in India, included training sessions for players and umpires, as many as 10 games played in a round robin format over 2 days and a grand final. The tournament was also about raising awareness about sports other than cricket .

A press conference was organized at the Calicut Press Club the day before the tournament started, and the press gathered (almost every local media house of Kerala along with many national ones) was introduced to the new sport in India by Sudip. The gathering was then invited over to attend and cover the tournament the following day. The very first press-conference for AFL India was another feather in the hat. However, this registration process in Kerala did’t work out.

AFL India OGM Cup


After a few years of hard work to get Footy rolling in different parts of the country, finally AFL India successfully hosted the inaugural Aussie Rules tournament in India, at Kozhikode, a southern Indian coastal city in the state of Kerala. The tournament saw five teams – the Mahim Cats and Matunga Tigers from Mumbai, North Kozhikode Bombers and South Kozhikode Giants from Kozhikode and Madurai Kangaroos from Madurai, playing each other in a round robin format to qualify for the Grand Final.

A fantatsic show of skills and sportsmanship were on display as the players from different sporting and economic backgrounds and different age groups faced each other, all aiming to lift the first ever AFL India – OGM Cup, sponsored by Perth based mining company OGM, along with its Indian counterpart RP Group of Companies. Eventually it was an all Kozhikode Grand Final, where the Giants were beaten in a close contest by the Bombers, who clinched the trophy.

The tournament was organised by Australian Football Association of Kerala at Malabar Christian College grounds in Kozhikode, Kerala on 2nd December 2012, and was inaugurated by Dr. Muneer, honourable Minister of Social Welfare and Panchayat, Government of Kerala, who handed over the match ball to the umpires.

The day saw some fantastic display of natural ability from players of different age and backgrounds fighting it out on the ground, who were showcasing their footy skills for the first time in a structured tournament of its kind, not to forget the great display of sportsman spirit at every opportunity. The inaugural match was played between hosts South Kozhikode Giants facing Matunga Tigers, resulting in a big victory for the Giants, who ultimately qualified for the finals undefeated throughout the league stage.

On the other hand, the North Kozhikode Bombers, Mahim Cats and Madurai Kangaroos put in a great effort throughout the day, with Bombers edging past all the other teams apart from the Giants to qualify for the Grand Final, making it an all-Kozhikode affair. The Tigers and Kangaroos on the other hand got a victory each to cherish, which will be good encouragement for them to do better in future tournaments. The Cats on the other hand will surely be ready to attack every opponent in future tournaments to snatch away their first victory. The league stage also saw all the officials from AFL India, whose hard work resulted in finally organizing the tournament, take on the umpires’ role alternatively and also put on jumpers of their choice to try and help their teams score a few more goals, but more so to remind everyone that Footy is a game for everyone to enjoy together.

The Grand Final saw an exciting, close contest between Giants and Bombers, who were rightfully in the finals given their dedicated training schedule, which comprised of an hour of regular training at the Kozhikode beach for nearly six months. But one also has to keep in mind that both the host city teams had a clear advantage when it came to physical size of the players, as compared to the other three teams. The Giants who had defeated the Bombers in the league stage and had entered the final unbeaten, were taken by surprise by the sudden Bombers’ counter-attack, who went on to defeat the Giants 3-1-19 to 1-5-11 and lifted the inaugural AFL India – OGM Cup from the hands of Mr. Peter Puliattu, representative of the title sponsors OGM / RP Group and Mr. Boby Chemmanur, Director of the Chemmanur Gold Company, who were the guest of honor for the prize distribution ceremony. There were also three special prizes for the players, namely the ‘Richmond Tigers Player of the Tournament’ won by N.V. Abdul Ashraf from South Kozhikode Giants, ‘Essendon Bombers Best Goal’ won by Sumesh Sawant from Matunga Tigers and ‘GWS Giants Best Mark’ won by R. Raja from Madurai Kangaroos.

AFL India thanked all the three AFL Clubs, Richmond Tigers, Essendon Bombers and GWS Giants for their support towards the historic tournament, along with the other sponsor Australia Unlimited. A special thanks to Australian Cricket legend Steve Waugh for being a patron for our tournament, whose involvement helped attract a lot of attention, probably a much required strategy to attract the cricket fans in India. We were also grateful to Reclink Australia for providing the wonderful support in helping Lincoln Harris set up the Mumbai teams and Rick Shrowder, Director of Global Community Sports, then based in England, for the wonderful work he has put it in the city of Madurai, which culminated in the formation of the Madurai Kangaroos team with the help of Syed Ali, Rick’s man on ground in India, and his entire team. We also thank Rhan Harris, Ambassador of Reclink Australia for flying up to Kozhikode from down under specially for the tournament, and sharing his skills and knowledge with the players from all the teams and training the umpires for the tournament.

Apart from the short term prospect of being crowned national champions, players were also appraised for selection to the Indian Tigers to play in the next AFL International Cup.

AFL India creates government links in the states of Gujarat & West Bengal

20130222041354489_2Australian Trade Commissioner and Vice President of Australian Rules Football Association in India, Tom Calder, was special guest at the closing ceremony of the “Swarnim Khel Mahakumbh” in Ahmedabad, a mass scale sports carnival organized by the Gujarat state Government as a part of the program to celebrate 50 years of the formation of the West Indian state.

During his speech at the event Tom asked the Chief Minister to consider promoting the unique Australian sport in Gujarat as a way of increasing Australian-Gujarati sports links and presented an AFL India branded Footy to him on stage (pictured).

Tom, who is a Saints tragic and a passionate supporter of Footy in India, received some strong interest in exploring AFL further at the event, including AFL India conducting a two day workshop for PE teachers in Ahemadabad.

AFL India had earlier earmarked Gujarat as a state with good potential to kick off footy and now has a great starting point with the highest possible source in the state, Narendra Modi, who is tipped by many as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the opposition party in India, for the upcoming national elections in 2014.

Also in the state of West Bengal, the place where it all started back in 2008, Sudip got the opportunity to introduce Footy to the Sports Minister Mr. Madan Mitra (pictured) recently.

Both these links have paved way for registering the state associations in the respective states in near future, with activities up and running in Gujarat from the end of February.


20130222041354489_1Mr. Narendra Modi, welcomed the sport into the state by inviting the Secretary General of Australian Rules football Association in India, Sudip Chakraborty, over to Ahmedabad to kick start proceedings in late February. Dr. Jatin Soni, The Vice Chancellor of Swarnim Sports University, an upcoming project under the State Government in Ahmedabad – a brainchild of Mr. Modi, played host to Sudip Chakraborty and helped him organise an introductory seminar and workshop for Australian Rules Football with over 40 Physical Education teachers from all around Gujarat at YMCA, Ahmedabad.

Sudip, Vineet and Priyank Chokshi (a young businessman based in Ahmedabad who had represented the Indian Tigers during AFL International Cup 2011, when he was based in Melbourne for higher education) went on to organise an introductory Australian  Rules Football seminar and training session with 250 students from J.G. International School in Ahmedabad, where the management and staff were  happy to take up the new sport and help it develop in the state in the near future 



Tom Calder – Australian Trade Commissioner in India and also President – Australian Rules Football Association of India, and Sudip Chakraborty, Secretary General of ARFAI and Captain of Indian Tigers team, introduced Australian Football to His Highness Prince Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar of Udaipur, who welcomed the sport into the state by inviting Sudip Chakraborty to kick start proceedings from the MMPS school in Udaipur. 

Sudip’s journey

239802 (1)It is three thousand odd kilometres between Punjab in north India to Kerala far down south. It’s another 2000 kilometres between Gujarat far west and West Bengal on the eastern borders. Massive distance the figures suggest and the present Secretary General of the Australian Rules Football Association of India, Sudip Chakraborty, has travelled the length and breadth of the nation repeatedly for the past 12 months just for footy. Starting from the national championships in Kerala in 2012 to another national championship in Goa this 2013, the twelve months were one hell of a ride for this footy vagabond.

A cricket fanatic and open to new ventures, Sudip jumped on the footy bandwagon in 2008 and before long he had become an integral part of the sporting activities in the country. By the end of 2011, Sudip had already represented his country in two International Cups, and as the days rolled on, what started as an exploration, turned into a vision and a stubborn will to make his dream come true.

The dream in itself might sound mainstream – to see India become one of the top footy playing nations. But for a 19 year old (in 2009) to start developing a new sport from scratch, it takes more than wishful thinking. It requires that consummate concoction of planning, perseverance, patience and a bucket-full of stubbornness…and he had it aplenty.

Giving up on all other possible career paths, post his Masters in Sport Management from UK, Sudip devoted himself entirely to footy. Without any financial backing or promise of support, Sudip has been on the road in buses and trains a million and one times in the past year. Early 2013 saw Sudip introduce the sport in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, having been invited to set his ideas rolling in motion by the present Chief Minister of Gujarat and Prime Ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi and Prince Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar of Udaipur respectively.

His journey also took him to Mumbai and Delhi numerous times to seek corporate support and to urge influential personalities to extend their support. Perhaps his proudest moment in the past year was to witness a tournament in Mumbai completely organised by the local lads. Encouraging sign that, and a subtle reminder that there are people out there who might share his passion for footy. Another experience he will cherish for life is a visit to a footy manufacturing factory in Jalandhar, where he witnessed first-hand the complete footy manufacturing process; a process Sudip was pleased to confirm has no child labour involved.

For months on end Sudip kept travelling without any organizational support, spending a fortune in the process. It is not easy to inculcate a new sport in the minds of a cricket crazy population but Sudip through his efforts managed to conduct one-off introductory sessions for a staggering figure of 1000 students across Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat! He also held a few sessions with underprivileged kids from the international sports NGO Magic Bus in Maharashtra. On his journey he did find support from a few individuals who believed in his vision and the power of footy. Tom Calder, Australian Trade Commissioner in India, Lincoln Harris owner of India Unbound, and Rick Shrowder owner of Global Community Sports (GCS), have been pillars of support throughout his venture. Incidentally, Lincoln kick-started Footy proceedings in Mumbai and is still a regular supporter of all Footy activities in the busy city. Another source of support came in from former Fitzroy/Melbourne player Don Whitford who conducted a few training sessions for kids in Mumbai at Shivaji Park and threw in all sorts of personal support and encouragement.

The past two months have seen Sudip’s effort bear fruit. A successful setup of Global Community Sports franchise in India to deliver educational and cultural exchange programmes to schools in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Delhi has also been a venture which is slowly being welcomed by the schools. Sudip’s efforts were also given a massive boost by the successful application for the Australian Sports Outreach Program (ASOP) grant sanctioned by the Australian Sports Council which facilitates the Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI) to develop the sport in 3 states in collaboration with Magic Bus, in the next 10 months. To top it all off, the ARFAI national championship 2013 in Goa, saw the Victorian Government’s office in India throwing in support for the first time.

Looking back at the last 12 months, Sudip said “These 12 months have given me bag full of experience to cherish for life, ranging from knowing how diverse cultures in India respond to accepting a new sport, to underprivileged kids from the biggest slum of Asia in Mumbai wanting to be a footy player for India like myself, to learning the entire process of how a footy is manufactured. Not to forget the continuous encouragement & support of a few close people like Tom, Rick and Lincoln and of course my parents who have kept faith in their son travelling around crazily for the love of his sport at his own expense. I should definitely mention about two of my best friends Vineet Basu and Mona Kalra, who have also voluntarily helped me in the process whenever I needed them and have been part of my journey on several occasions, all out of their love for me and sports. They have now rightly been recruited by ARFAI as development officers for the ASOP project. Although there were many drawbacks during the period, and lack of support from Australian sources, I believe in one mantra i.e. Hard work never fails – It’s all about the good work at the end.”

Footy might not be big in India at the moment but whatever it has to show for, is squarely because of the sweat and toil of Sudip and his ‘madness’ surrounding the game. There have been times when he has felt shackled down by the system, but that’s the thing about true passion, it always finds a way out. And Sudip looks to be doing just that. With a more regular and steady access to resources, there’s no fathoming what he can achieve with the sport, and for those who have been part of his journey will not be surprised out of their wits to see him achieve greatness.

Formation of ARFAI

At a meeting at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, it was decided that a new body in the name of ‘Australian Rules Football Association of India’ (ARFAI) would be registered from Kolkata, West Bengal under the societies registration act of India. This new body saw Sudip Chakraborty take on to his role of the Secretary General, and Tom Calder taking on the role of the honorary President. Mona Kalra from Udaipur, Rajasthan, who by then had become one of Sudip’s biggest support in developing footy across the country, sharing responsibility in various departments including managing finances, went on to become the Treasurer of the new board of member for ARFAI.

ASOP grant


The 31st October 2013 marked a historic day for the Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI). A successful bid for the Australian Sports Outreach Programme (ASOP) grant resulted in the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and the AFL Headquarters signing an agreement to pass the grant in favour of ARFAI. The grant would help the ARFAI develop Aussie Rules Football in India with help from partner organisation Magic Bus – India.

The launch of the agreement was hosted at the Australian High Commission in Delhi. The grant was passed to assist focused development of Footy in the states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Jharkhand. ARFAI in this period will be working in close quarters with Magic Bus, India which is an international sport NGO helping unprivileged children using sports as a medium to relay social messages. Apart from the social programmes, ARFAI will also engage in educational programmes in other states as well through the India chapter of Global Community Sports (GSC) which is a company conducting educational and global cultural exchange programmes using Footy as the medium.

The 10 months long programme was inaugurated by the Australian Deputy High Commissioner, Bernard Philip. Bernard, a Richmond Tigers fan himself, was very forthcoming in his desire to give the ARFAI initiative all the support it craved for. The event was also attended by Rekha Dey, the ASOP India Coordinator. The ARFAI Secretary General, Sudip Chakraborty for whom it was a momentous event, spoke of his journey for the past 5 years which has seen him travel the length and breadth of the nation trying to promote the sport in India, with nothing but his passion for the sport to drive him on. Sudip thanked ASOP for giving ARFAI the opportunity to employ 7 development officers (including himself), who in the next 1 year will develop Footy in India under a professional setup.

The Australian Trade Commissioner, Tom Calder and Pratik Kumar, CEO of Magic Bus India also graced the occasion. Novy Kapadia, renowned sports journalist in India, was special guest at the launch. Mr. Kapadia spoke of the importance of grass-root development in sports and how he thought Footy could be a part in the process. The event, which was covered by various national media houses, also hosted Indian and Australian corporate big-shots who were invited to support ARFAI endeavours in the future. Incidentally, Tinku Grewal of Musashi India announced his support for ARFAI henceforth to start off with in-kind sponsorship and he expressed his interest to support Aussie Rules in India in a bigger way in the future. It would appear that Sudip’s efforts for the past 5 years have finally born concrete fruits. The grant will no doubt go a long way in helping ARFAI put the wheels in motion. But the hard work now lies ahead and Footy looks to grow leaps and bound with continued support.

AFL India – OGM Cup 2013


Following last year’s success of the inaugural national level tournament of Australian Rules Football in Kerala, India and the wonderful reception it enjoyed from people, it was time for hosting the 2nd annual national championship – AFL India – OGM Cup 2013. The venue for the tournament this year was the richest state of India, in terms of per capita GDP, Goa which is located on the western coast of India.

There was fair bit of improvement on last year’s tournament which witnessed participation of five teams from three states of India. This year, with the immense popularity of the sport increasing day by day, a new state featured in the tournament from West Bengal, the birth place of Footy in India. All up there were six teams participating- three junior teams and three senior teams. The senior teams were Bengal Tigers, Maharashtra Giants and Kerala Bombers and the junior teams were Maharashtra Giants, Maharashtra Tigers and Tamil Nadu Kangaroos. All the teams played in round robin format with the top teams qualifying for the Grand Final. This year the tournament witnessed two winners-one in the senior division and one in the junior division attesting the fact that the popularity of Footy in India is disseminating like wildfire.
A regal show of passion and devotion for the sport along with dexterous skill were on display as the players from different strata of social and economic backgrounds and age groups faced each other, all aiming to lift AFL India – OGM Cup, sponsored by Perth based mining company OGM, along with its Indian counterpart RP Group of Companies.

The tournament was organised by the Australian Rules Football Association Of India (ARFAI) at the Village Panchayat Ground, Sangolda, Goa from 15th of November to 17th of November,2013. The opening ceremony saw some eminent personalities of the Australian Rules Football fraternity. The tournament was inaugurated by Andrew Cadzow – AFL Asia Pacific Manager, who was in India as a part of a broader initiative undertaken by the ARFAI through the Australian Sports Outreach Programme (ASOP) grant sanctioned by the Australian Sports Commission. Also gracing the event were Peter Cullen – Founder and current National Development Manager of Reclink Australia, Rhan Harris – ambassador of Reclink Australia and the legend himself Gavin Crosisca – who played 246 games for the Collingwood Football Club and being on the coaching panels at AFL clubs North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

All the three days had its share of excitement, passion and drama. The first day saw the coaching persona of Andrew Cadzow and Gavin Crosisca train not just the players but also the development officers of ARFAI, coaches/mentors from the different states along with the coaches from the international sports NGO – Magic Bus, who is one of the partners in the ASOP programme that ARFAI is working on at present. Their competent advice to the players was reflected in the skills the players showed during the tournament. On the second day the passion that the players feel for the game and momentousness of the tournament is to them was evident. During a senior division match between Kerala Bombers and Maharashtra Giants incessant sledging could be witnessed and in the end this led to a nasty brawl between the two teams. Even though this incident showed the passion of the players for the game but the ARFAI officials along with Andrew, Gavin and Peter rightfully condemned the incident.

A decision was taken to take disciplinary action against the teams involved in the brawl and they were banned from the tournament. As a result of which Bengal Tigers were announced as the winner in the senior division of the tournament, but not the winner in the conventional sense per say; instead they were the Fair Play Champions.

But the excitement didn’t dampen as the junior division matches went on as scheduled with some really prodigious play on display. The main lodestone of the third day was the Grand Final of the junior division. The two deserving teams- Maharashtra Giants and Maharashtra Tigers- went into the finals. The portentous show of skills and sportsmanship went on to nullify the unfortunate incident that happened the day before. To quote the great American football coach Vince Lombardi “Winning is not everything, it’s the only thing”.

Those words of Lombardi seemed to be ingrained in the mind of all the players. They played with all they had, they gave in their best efforts. It was a really close contest with Maharashtra Tigers having the last laugh defeating Maharashtra Giants 3-6-24 to 3-3-21 and lifting the AFL India-OGM Cup from the hands of Wayne Lewis, Commissioner to India, State Government of Victoria. For Wayne who has just settled in India, it was an overwhelming experience to attend a tournament of his favourite sport in India, which he had no clue had started making its mark on the cricket crazy nation, and thus he promised bigger support in the future from the Victorian Government’s side to help develop Aussie Rules in India, arguably Victoria’s best product ever.

Sudip Chakraborty, Secretary General of the ARFAI hosted the awards ceremony. The ARFAI presented footies with the logos of the sponsors to the supporters and dignitaries present. Reflecting on the events of the past few days Sudip said “It has taken a lot of hard work since last years’ national champs, travelling around India continuously and specially making three prior trips to Goa to set up the tournament on totally unfamiliar grounds. But the best part is the scale of the tournament went up quiet high compared to last year along with the skill and passion for the game on display by the players. Now that we have a team of officials together thanks to the ASOP grant, we look forward to a much bigger tournament next year with other new tournaments filling in the year as well.”
AFL India would like to thank all the three AFL Clubs, Richmond Tigers, Essendon Bombers and GWS Giants for their support they have shown towards the tournament, along with other sponsors Victorian Government, Reclink Australia, Musashi, India Unbound, and Patchi.

We are also grateful to Reclink Australia for providing the wonderful support in helping Lincoln Harris set up the Maharashtra teams and Rick Shrowder, Director of Global Community Sports, based in England, for the wonderful work he has put it in Tamil Nadu which culminated in the popularity of the sport in the state through the work of an NGO named Patchi, led by Syed Ali . We would also like to thank Rhan Harris, Ambassador of Reclink Australia for flying up to Goa from ‘Down Under’ especially for the tournament, and sharing his skills and knowledge with the players from all the teams and training the umpires for the tournament.

ARFAI partners at UN Next Step Conference

In February 2014, ARFAI made its presence felt in the UN Next Step Conference for Sports for Good as one of the partners of Magic Bus India who had hosted the event. The ARFAI logo featured for the first time in an event of global scale where personalities involved with Sports for Development in 21 different countries came together to share their views and experiences in the highly relevant and progressive sector. It was a proud moment for ARFAI and the global exposure would’ve done their grand plans no harm at all.