04/26/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/26/2019 15:15
Even in 2019, the game of Australian Rules football is still finding new frontiers to conquer. As much as the international game has developed over the past several seasons, footy is still blooming in heretofore barren locations.
Two USAFL clubs will make the historic journey to Bogotá, Colombia, in the first slate of matches between North and South American teams. This Americas Series will see the Bogotá Bulldogs host the defending D1 National Champion Austin Crows this coming weekend, followed by the Denver Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs on May 19th.
Founded in 2016, the Bulldogs play as the representative side of the Colombian AFL, which has 99 registered members. Roughly half of the players overall are native Colombians. On the women's side, however, twenty out of the twenty-one athletes are Colombian nationals; the other is a British expat.
'Amazingly well, some have become intensely interested in footy,' club president Travis Crockett told USAFL.com when asked how quick the locals have picked up the game.
'Our club works with a foundation, Buen Punto, that teaches values through sport and we have had several young Colombians really immerse themselves in the sport through the program. Aldeas SOS, the home for children who are wards of the state, have provided us with some really talented youngsters and they have flourished by connecting with the community we have built at the Bulldogs. It has been a very rewarding experience for the more experienced players.'
Crockett launched an open invite to USAFL clubs late last year for matches, and the response was encouraging. While Aussie Rules might be lagging behind soccer, roller sports, and the local game of tejo in terms of notoriety and popularity in Colombia, its obscurity lends itself to beneficial trips for clubs coming in from overseas looking to expand their footballing horizons.
'One of the advantages of living in a country where sports we grew up playing are not established is the chance to be a part of sporting tours,' Crockett explained. Many of us had enjoyed touring so we figured it might also be fun for the more established leagues in the US. Organizing tours with the Bulldogs and the Crows has been fun, the guys are accustomed to touring domestically so organizing has been pretty simple.'
This weekend's Crows-Bulldogs encounter, held at the Los Pinos Polo Club, is being dubbed the Fossil Cup, as Bulldogs legend Dean Wiltshire and Crows stalwart Grant Campbell take to the ground as centerpieces for their teams. The Crows side will include a dozen other members of the premiership winning squad, including Anthony Butt, Kenrick Tyrrell, Ben May, and Daniel Brown.
Denver's Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs will make the trek down to Colombia in May, and both teams will be augmented by players from other USAFL teams. Of particular interest is the women's match, as the USAFLers will play a spirited group of Colombian women whose passion for the sport mirrors that of the growing number of American devotees to the game.
Crockett also reported that, as part of the tour, representatives from the Denver and Bogotá sides will also be meeting with the Honorable Ms Sophie Davies, Australian ambassador to Colombia, and team reps from the Western Bulldogs.
'We're proud to be building the sport across all of the Americas. There's already a great women's league in the US so it's so exciting to be a part of building the game in South America too,' Denver Bulldogs Vice President Sara Edwards Rohner said.
'The Lady Bulldogs are looking forward to getting playing time abroad and experiencing a new culture. The Bogota Bulldogs have built a women's program in matter of a couple months as a result of this showdown, and we can't wait to see how well they play.'
With hopes that this opening set of tours goes well, Crockett says the Bulldogs hope that more clubs, from the USAFL and beyond, will come to Colombia and get not just a fruitful and competitive Australian football experience, but a taste of the local culture as well. In return, the chance to play established teams from overseas will help the Bulldogs grow the game not only in their home country, but across Latin America, with Crockett calling it 'an opportunity to shape the future of Aussie Rules in the Americas.'
'Bogota has some of the most amazing nightlife in Latin America and tourists can expect some big nights out,' said Crockett. 'We have a package option that takes the hassle out of the trip for touring teams, we take care of accommodation, breakfast, airport transfers, and a social welcome BBQ and an informal presentation dinner.
'With weekend package options starting from just $150USD per player with all of these expenses covered, it is a very cheap overseas trip with footy to boot. Local Colombians are also very warm and friendly hosts; they are always looking to show foreigners a good time in their sometimes misunderstood country.'
'We also facilitate tourist activities with our bilingual tour manager and can help players extend their visit and see more of the country if they so choose.'
For more information on the Bogotá Bulldogs, visit their facebook page.