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India Vs Australia – Historic day for Footy in India

Posted on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 by ARFAI,


Historic Ind Vs Aus match under way with thousands watching

The seemingly incessant rain gave way to partially clear skies as the AFL Masters (Australian) team disembarked the bus at Rabindra Mitali Sangha Ground in Daspur, West Midnapore, West Bengal, on the afternoon of Saturday, 22nd July. This historic day will be marked in the records of ARFAI as the day when a small village in the West Midnapore district of West Bengal hosted the first ever international Footy match on Indian soil. The AFL Masters team took on Team India as part of the AFL Masters’ tour, and the memories of this day will live long with everyone who witnessed the momentous occasion.


Flag Hoisting ceremony & National Anthems of both countries being sung with Ms. Sidhu as Chief Guest

The AFL Masters team, comprising players above the age of 30, have started maing tours to Europe and Asia to promote Footy across the world. After having played England and Ireland last year, India was their second stop this year, after China, and they were treated to an experience of a lifetime. The West Midnapore Footy Association with support from Footy Association of Bengal (FAB) took the mantle of organizing the event and they ensured that it was a spectacle to behold. The inauguration ceremony saw the Guest of Honour, Australian High Commissioner in India, Ms. Harinder SIdhu, greet both sets of players following a flag hoisting ceremony, and our visitors from Down Under were treated to some traditional song and dance performances. Before the Footy players took to the pitch, there were exhibition matches of Kabaddi contested by girls and boys from the West Bengal Kabaddi Association. For most of the Australians present, it was the first time they were witnessing the indigenous Indian sport in flesh, which has become increasingly popular in India over the last 3-4 years. Notably, AFL India and Essendon Football Club helped form the first ever Australian Kabaddi team that participated in the Kabaddi World Cup in 2016 in India.


The Indian team at the historic match

Late afternoon saw the serious stuff unfold – the event that 6000 odd spectators from in and around the district had been waiting for. The AFL Masters and Team India took to the field to rapturous applause. Most of the bystanders had never seen a game of Footy, but that didn’t stop them from creating an atmosphere of a true sporting spectacle; and the game did not disappoint. The first quarter was a closely contested affair ending in 3.5.23 – 3.2.20 in favour of the Australians and the fight put up by the Indian amateurs drew ample praise from the Ms. Sidhu and her team from the Australian Government Ms. Geraldine Gant, First Secretary, Public Affairs, Australian High Commission in India. But the experience and endurance of the Masters’ players shone through as the game went on, and the match ended 12.26.98 – 4.7.31 in their favour. In a match where the final score was of little significance, the Indian players left the field with their heads held high knowing that they had pushed the Masters’ to be at the top of their game and identified areas of improvement in their own.

According to Bengal Footy Association Secretary General Rakesh Ghosh, who also led the Indian team on field for the match, “We had put in a lot of hard work along with the West Midnapore District Footy Association to get the show together for the day. The heavy downpour in the morning before the game had got us scared but everything went really well in the end and thanks to the local crowd who travelled over to the stadium from all parts of the district to make this game more memorable for us. Would also like to specially thank Mr. Utpal Samanta and Mr. Probir Mondal, our district association leaders who ran the show on the day and made it a grand success.”

The victorious Australian (AFL Masters) team with the trophy

The victorious Australian (AFL Masters) team with the trophy

The biggest highlight of the day for the Indian team, apart from being cheered for every run by 6000 plus spectators, was the fact that they spent an entire day with their Australian counterparts who shared their knowledge, advice and words of encouragement. This would definitely serve as the perfect precursor to their participation in the International Cup (IC) 2017 starting from 5th August in Australia. For the Masters on the other hand, everything was a highlight apparently. They experienced a side of India and Bengal that they had never even heard of, complete with social, cultural and sporting immersions. According to one f the Australian team players, there was no comparison between the experiences they had in China to what they experienced in India, which was a huge complement for AFL India. There was a lot to talk about on the bus journey back and there will be more when they see some familiar faces Down Under during the IC17.

While talking to ARFAI Founder & Secretary General Sudip Chakraborty, Ms. Sidhu mentioned “it was truly fantastic to have attended the tournament on the weekend. The team spirit and also the enthusiasm of the crowd more than everything made up for all the rain! I am a convert and you are to be congratulated for all the work you have done to bring the AFL relationship to this point.”


Teams cherishing the experience together after the match

Special thanks to the International Ambassador of the AFL Masters Paul Newbury, who had got in touch with Sudip who is now working for the AFL and Essendon FC in Melbourne, Australia, to make this memorable day take shape and also to our long term supporters Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan School, Salt Lake, OGM Technical Institute and Global Reach, who helped the Indian team prepare for the day.