AFL India is growing some firm roots as we speak, and that is largely thanks to Sudip Chakraborty, to those involved in the sport from Australia who love to share their knowledge, and to the infectious and inclusive nature of the sport. Indians are known for their love of some healthy rivalry and also passion for sport and this could be just the beginning of another love affair of those two things.
A Kolkata boy, Sudip Chakraborty obviously had a love for sport that goes back to his younger days. Now as a graduate of sports management and sports science, he has a desire to share that. With his curiosity and intrigue about sport, it was only a few years ago that he stumbled upon some footage of Australian Rules Football. Soon he would be turning this into an India-wide venture, introducing AFL and setting up the first leagues and competitions across the country.
Sudip leads this year’s AFL International India team as captain, fit and strong. In years to come, could he be drafted by a local team here? With the standard of some of the teams that have been put forward this year in AFL International, that is not a far off idea.
Talking with Pawan Luthra on Indian Link Radio, Sudip shared some details about the game in India.
“AFL started in India about five years ago. Today it’s spread across West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu. We’re working with the Australian Sports Commission to spread the game to the other states as well. We have a national tournament in November and December each year and a regular State tournament. We have great support from the Australian government and the Australian fans who know the sport is not yet big in India. We’re hoping to make Australian Football a recognised sport in India”.
Although rugby has been played in Mumbai and Kolkata for years, there are some 3000 kids of different age groups under 16 who are currently being initiated into AFL, he revealed.
“Our major focus is on Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Kerala. We’re hoping to add to this number and at the end of this year reach 5000 kids”.
What about the grounds in India?
“That’s a major challenge, finding grass grounds to play on – for tournaments and for practices. We work with underprivileged kids and to get the game into their communities and find access to grounds is a major challenge. We need green tops – especially with physical contact sports – it’s a challenge to get them. Sometimes we’ll find a small patch of green and have to go in first and clean it up, remove harmful objects, to make it safe for them to play on”.
And who are Sudip’s own AFL influences?
“He’s retired now, but Brett Kirk from the Sydney Swans. I spent two weeks with him in India when he toured and he was an inspiration. My favourite player is Jack Riewoldt from the Tigers. Richmond has had a real connection with AFL in India and is an official partner, so I’ve been backing Richmond from the beginning and they’re definitely my AFL heroes”.
Check out more from Leanne Woodward’s AFL International Cup 2014 overview: