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Australia, the magazine : Australia, the magazine
95 international afl coaches. A similar animal-based training technique was used with success in South Africa. e push into China is serious business for the AFL, with many sta and executives involved in the planning, supported by Melbourne's Hong Kong- born former Lord Mayor, John So. AFL China Consultant, Tom Parker says the initiative is an opportunity to provide an illustration of Australia beyond kangaroos, iron ore and beaches. " e AFL sees this as a chance to assist the Federal Government in expanding Chinese understanding of Australia by portraying our cultural values on the sporting eld. " We also understand what we do in China resonates with the Chinese community in Australia, further promoting the game." An exhibition match between AFL sides Brisbane Lions and Melbourne will be played during the Shanghai World Expo at the 14,000-seat Jiangwan Stadium on October 17. A group of 90 players and o cials will go to Shanghai for the event and the game will be broadcast by Shanghai Media Group to potentially 20 million homes across the Yangtze Delta. AFL legend Kevin Sheedy has visited the stadium, declaring it the best AFL venue outside of Australia. "We've been waiting 150 years for a ground like this overseas," said Sheedy in typical larrikin style. Sheed's quip may have been a li le tongue-in-cheek but the new coach of the Greater Western Sydney AFL franchise is an expansionist visionary who understands the importance of such a development in taking Aussie Rules to the world. Andrew Sawitsch, a veteran of the Beijing Bombers, is the AFL's man on the ground in Shanghai. His job is to promote the game and foster interest in the exhibition match in October. He will introduce Aussie Rules to primary schools in the Yangpu District, focussing on skills, health, teamwork and tness. A major di culty is nding enough space to play the game, with a typical AFL oval around twice the size of a soccer pitch. One option is to play nine- a-side games on soccer pitches but the AFL is excited that China's fourth- largest city, Tianjin -- Melbourne's sister city, situated 120 kilometres south-east of Beijing -- is spending AU$1.5 million on a purpose-built AFL oval. Linked by deepening trade ties and a love of sport, these two recent hosts of the Olympic Games are kindred spirits and the speed, skill and excitement of Australian football could become the next theme of camaraderie between Australia and China. During the 1980s the AFL (or VFL as it was then known) ran a print ad showing the sublimely talented Krakouer brothers playing footy for North Melbourne. e caption read: 'Take the family to see some Aboriginal art this weekend.' Indigenous Australians have an undeniable a nity for the national game. Comprising just 2.5 percent of the population, they make up 11 percent of senior AFL lists, with 85 in the top ight this season. Jason Mifsud, founder and CEO of the AFL Foundation and a prominent member of the indigenous community, was presented with an Emerging Leader award by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2009. e AFL Foundation manages indigenous programs for young Aboriginals, using Aussie Rules to develop a culture of healthy lifestyle, leadership and education. In the highly successful Qantas AFL Kickstart program, they have partnered with the national airline, which has a strong commitment to supporting indigenous youth. Qantas AFL Kickstart o ers a range of reward and recognition incentives for ve to 10-year-olds (30 percent of whom are girls). During the AFL's Reconciliation Week Dreamtime Round, children spend a week in Melbourne visiting AFL clubs, where they meet senior players who help reinforce positive lifestyle messages. e AFL introduced the Dreamtime Round to pay tribute to the code's rich indigenous element, and this includes a strong representation of Qantas AFL Kickstart events at all senior matches. An annual camp for older children results in the selection of 30 youngsters for the representative Flying Boomerangs team for tours to northern Australia and South Africa, where the team found the history of apartheid resonated strongly. "We saw similar air on display from the locals during our recent tour of South Africa," says Jason Mifsud. " e matches were high-quality, keenly contested a airs and the South African kids' skills have improved dramatically." Other AFL Foundation initiatives include indigenous academies, and the Ambassador for Life program, which provides guidance by AFL players and community leaders. All up, the AFL's indigenous programs reach more 90,000 people including children, parents, coaches and administrators. The push into China is serious business for the AFL, with many staff and executives involved. BOOTS IN THE DUST INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS STAR IN THE GAME THAT IS UNIQUE TO THEIR COUNTRY. BY MAL CHENU The Flying Boomerangs' tour of South Africa. Roger Sedres