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International Cup 08 Preview – For Indian Footy, The Journey Has Just Begun

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 by ARFAI,


Published: 21st August, 2008.

20080818232838439_1India is a diverse country in southern Asia with a population of over 1.1 billion. Along with Sweden, Finland, China and the Peace Team, this will be the country’s first International Cup. In many ways, the Indian team will resemble the South African side of 2002. They won’t be able to match it with the top sides, but with the possibility of two NAB Cup matches in the country in 2009, and India clearly on the AFL’s radar, this is only the beginning of an exciting football journey.

The Country and Australian Football

India is the world’s second most populous country and shares many similarities with Australia. Both countries have been significantly influenced by the British and both share a passion for sport.

There have been a couple of attempts at establishing Australian Football in India. Most of the Indian team at the International Cup are products of the most recent attempt, in Kolkata (West Bengal).

In 2006 ex-VFL footballer Brian Dixon undertook a “World Tour” promoting Australian Football. One of his stops was India, where he met Achintya Saha, who is heavily involved with grassroots sport in Kolkata, particularly Kabaddi. Dixon convinced Saha that Australian Football was worth developing in India, and upon returning to Australia, Dixon had a list of interested parties.

There were a few hiccups on the way, with plans to send two promising Indian footballers to Australia for further development cancelled because of visa problems. But unlike previous attempts, AFL India persevered through the tough times. Eventually Dixon returned to the country, two AFL India board members, Ravinder Chadha and Pranab Bhattacharya attended a coaching course at AFL House in Melbourne and AFL International Coordinator Yuta Kobayashi visited India, to assist the team in making it to Melbourne.

Saha is still on board and will join the Indian team in Melbourne as a Team Manager, along with Sanjeev Nagar. The team will be coached by Biswadip Chakraborty and Kishore Patra. Essendon will support India during their stay in Australia.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The small size of several of the Indian players, their inexperience with the game and being drawn in the same pool as reigning champions, New Zealand (who humbled many of their opponents in 2005) are all negatives. Hopefully the ten players secured for the team in Australia will bring a greater knowledge of the game and offset this inexperience.

A mystery factor surrounds India, which could play in their favour. No team, at least initially, will know what to expect of them. Furthermore most people (including WFN) have written them off to finish last. This underdog status may mean a few surprising results.

Players to Watch

As India makes their football debut at the tournament, pinpointing potential standout players is difficult, but the AFL website’s preview suggests ex-soccer players “Mervin Nathaniel and Sukdeb Mondal.”


Form Guide

As far as Pool A is concerned, the superior skills of New Zealand will mean a one-sided affair. Whilst many of Samoa’s Australia-based players are ineligible or unavailable for the tournament, the team’s physicality should also prove too much for the Indians. Expect a tighter game against Japan.

Classification matches are India’s chance to steal a win, depending on their opposition. The Peace Team looks good on paper, but theoretically should be even less experienced than the Indians. Finland and China are other potential wins.

Bottom Line

Unless they can cause an upset, last place, but a most welcome addition to international footy.