With the Aussie Rules season well and truly underway across Australia now, and particularly so in Melbourne, it’s a great time to share a little of what we’ve been up to recently with our footy teams and programs in India.
During April I was in India for the 5th annual Reclink Mumbai Footy Cup, a two-day competition in which eight teams of young kids and men from Mumbai come together to play Aussie Rules. This year we were also thrilled to have some expats living in the city come down to the ground and join in a game.
This competition is the result of years of work by myself, with funding from India Unbound, to share the game of Aussie Rules in Mumbai. We had around 50 players competing in this event, as well as regular training throughout the year, compromising of a group of passionate and diverse young guys. (We’ve also had several of our clients attend those regular Aussie Rules training sessions in Mumbai during their India tours and it’s always a highlight for the guys in Mumbai and our travellers.) We have also been privileged to have the interest and support of Reclink Australia, through connections to that wonderful non-profit organization we have in Australia.
Now in its fifth year, the competition is growing, the skills of the boys are improving more and more, and there’s a sense of momentum behind what we are trying to do – which is to build a grassroots Aussie Rules competition in Mumbai, and hopefully India, providing opportunities to a group of kids that don’t get so many.
It was an extremely hot and tiring couple of days, but it was exhilarating. Having secured a great ground in central Mumbai, we had the space to run the tournament and games unhindered for two solid days. (Finding the space to play for an hour is an ongoing issue in this massive city, let alone a decent ground we can have to ourselves for 2 whole days!) Everyone pitched in and helped – from the umpiring to the scoring to packing up gear at the end. Even my four-year-old son attended and participated in the juniors training clinic and kicked the ball with any of the local guys – big or small – he could convince to run around with him in the scorching sun!
To watch the guys compete over those couple of days, to see their enthusiasm, their love of the game, and the fun they get from it, is the greatest reward for me. To me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that I have the good fortune to be part of every year and I am looking forward to sharing the experience with more and more people in the future.
Going forward, I am more driven than ever to develop and share Aussie Rules in India – not simply because I love footy but because it is such a powerful tool to bring people together. We are working on ways to get more funding so that we can get better equipment, better access to grounds, more opportunities to expand the reach of Aussie Rules to a larger number of players and generally more opportunities for kids who want to get involved. We have a new competition we are working on and we are looking at ways to boost the profile of footy in India here in Australia.
In the coming months a couple of players from our Mumbai teams will visit Melbourne to raise awareness of Aussie Rules in Mumbai and what we are trying to do. India Unbound is passionate about this work and will continue to support the development of this grassroots competition in India. We are also working with Reclink Australia to further their role going forward.
Later in the year, we will also be holding another tournament in Mumbai in November. We are very excited about this new tournament, which will be open to Aussie Rules fans and players from all corners of India, Australia and Asia to attend to either spectate, help run the event or play. More details on that will follow in the coming months.
India Unbound is committed to giving back to the communities we work with in India. This is a passion of mine, but also a commitment from our company to leave a positive impact from what we do. For me personally, it gives me a great amount of joy and is one of the biggest motivations for being involved in the travel industry.